ABC Columbia News General Manager Chris Bailey issued the following statement in response to ending its working relationship with columnist Ron Morris:
I made the decision yesterday, with the input from WOLO News Director Crysty Vaughan, to end our working relationship with Ron Morris. He had been providing a weekly “Mondays With Morris” segment for ABC Columbia News. Mr. Morris was not a full-time employee of the station, but a regular content provider. In light of the recent friction between Ron and other parties, I made the decision to eliminate his weekly segment in our news. This decision was mine alone. I’ve had no contact with anyone at the University of South Carolina, or any other parties in this matter. For our television station, Mr Morris’ work was very different than his role at The State newspaper. His body of work at WOLO was not controversial, and rarely focused on Gamecock sports. It was more celebratory of the world of sports, and mostly light-hearted in nature.
Free speech is often a messy proposition, but vital in our society. I was only recently reminded of that when I traveled to part of the former Soviet Union and saw the broadcast towers formerly used to jam broadcasts from the west. Free speech, while it has expanded to many other areas of our lives, was originally put in place to protect media and writers from government censorship. It does not, however, protect the writer from consequences in the realm of public opinion or the marketplace. As a journalist, there have been times (not in Columbia) when I’ve stood up to pressures from the marketplace related to news content on my station. This was not one of those times, as the recent controversy had nothing to do with Ron Morris’ weekly segment on WOLO.
However, I saw that WOLO might needlessly be drawn into a battle between the State Newspaper and the University, and I want to avoid that situation.
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