The top editor at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Greenfield Recorder said Wednesday he was fired for speaking out in favor of higher pay for female journalists, but his record on the issue was challenged within hours.
Executive editor Jeff Good said three female employees made the case to him they were underpaid compared to some recently hired male colleagues. Good said he agreed and took the matter to the publisher, Mike Rifanburg. Good said Rifanburg made some attempts to close the pay gap.
But Good said he and his staff kept pushing the issue, frustrating Rifanburg enough that he referred to the female journalists as "selfish young ladies," according to Good.
In an email he sent Wednesday morning to employees, Good said it's because of his advocacy that he was fired on Monday. In an interview, he explained the decision to go public.
"I had two options. I could either accept the severance package that was offered to me -- three months' pay -- in exchange for signing an agreement that said I wouldn't say anything bad about the company, and walk out the door with my tail between my legs," Good said. "Or I could answer the question that people would have about, 'Well, why was Jeff fired?' in a way that was honest and forthright. And so I decided to choose the honest route."
But a statement from Rifanburg claims Good is being anything but honest.
"Although we cannot discuss personnel matters out of respect for our employees, Mr. Good's transition is in no way due to his participation in the Gazette's ongoing efforts to address pay equity issues," Rifanburg wrote. "We started and took these [pay equity] measures before Mr. Good was involved, and we will continue with these important analyses after Mr. Good's departure."
After the story broke on Poynter, some former female editors publicly questioned Good's credentials as a champion for women.
Laurie Loisel worked at the Gazette for 29 years as a reporter and editor before she quit in 2015.
"As a woman in the newsroom for a very long time, I felt respected and valued -- until Jeff Good came on the scene," Loisel said.
Loisel said Good demoted her from editor back to reporter -- one of several signs, she said, that he marginalized women at the paper.
"It's not all as clear as Harvey Weinstein," she said. "Sometimes it's just demeaning, belittling attitudes."
Loisel, who now works in the Hampshire County District Attorney's office, said she does not know why Good was fired, but she was "flabbergasted" to read his letter to staff.
Another former editor, Kathleen Mellen, told Poynter that Good "ran [her] out of the paper." She said that pay issues pre-dated Good's arrival at the paper, but women "fought tooth and nail over wages with him."
For his part, Good called Loisel and Mellen "unhappy former employees."
"I'm not making myself out to be a hero," Good said. "If there are any heroes here it's these three young women and their colleagues who stood up for what was right."
But one of those women took Good to task in an emailed statement late Wednesday afternoon. Photojournalist Sarah Crosby said Good's story does not accurately reflect her experience.
"The several closed-door meetings Jeff and I had continued a culture that was secretive, stressful and difficult to move the [pay equity] issue forward in," Crosby wrote.
Further, Crosby said she is disappointed Good named her and the two other journalists, reporters Emily Cutts and Lisa Spear, without asking for their permission or giving them a heads-up.
"However, I am relieved that pay parity is now being discussed across the newsroom," she wrote. "I am hopeful that the discussion will continue and lead to action.'
Earlier in the day, Cutts responded to a request for comment with a joint statement from the three women that did not address Good's claims.
"Our job as journalists is to ask tough questions and to tell the truth," the statement said. "That charge does not stop when we walk through the doors of our own newsroom. Pay parity is a complicated and important issue and we look forward to continuing the conversation."
Correction: This post was updated at 11:40 a.m. on February 1, 2018, to fix a couple typos in quotes.