National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

Newsman Fights Clown As Thieves and Pimps Look On

Barry Nolan, a long-time broadcast journalist in the Boston area, was fired for his quiet, persistent protest against the selection of Bill O'Reilly for the Governor's Award by the Boston/New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS). The news brought to mind three quotes:

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"If only I could get Jim Briskin on my network, Hada thought gloomily. The ranking TV news clown, so popular, with his flaming scarlet wig and genial, informal patter."
          -- Philip K. Dick, "What'll We Do With Ragland Park?" (1963).

"The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason."
          -- Hunter S. Thompson, 1985

"There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil - remain detached from the great."
          -- Walter Lippmann, 1920

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Nolan might have been reading Lippman when he decided last week that standing for his profession was more important than protecting his career. The news clown, the power of his popularity, feted as a journalist by the thieves and pimps, was just too much for him.

Writing in the Boston Herald on May 22, 2008, Jessica Heslam gives the basic details of the story, Comcast fires Barry Nolan over Bill O’Reilly protest:

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Nolan tells MediaBiz he was fired Tuesday following a two-week, unpaid suspension.

A CN8 spokeswoman issued this statement: “Effective May 20, Barry Nolan is no longer employed by CN8, The Comcast Network. Backstage will continue to air weeknights at 8:00 p.m. with host, Sara Edwards, and its talented team of reporters and contributors.”

[...snip...]

Before the May 10 awards, Nolan sent e-mails to industry colleagues encouraging them to write to the Emmy governors - if they shared his opinion - and let them know “this is an appalling choice for an honor.” [...snip...] At the awards, Nolan said he quietly put fliers on tables that “simply had” quotes from O’Reilly as well as three pages from the sexual harassment lawsuit O’Reilly settled that was brought by his former producer.

Security approached Nolan and told him he couldn’t distribute information at the event.

Nolan says he has no regrets about speaking out against giving O’Reilly “the highest honor” that the local Emmy Awards can bestow. 2

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According to several accounts that I'd read, and what Nolan himself later told me, he understood there could -- and probably would -- be consequences for his actions. His sense of honor and integrity would not permit him to remain still and allow what he felt was an appalling event to take place unchallenged.