Why Was Scott Braddock Fired?

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Like many journalists in the state, I was saddened to learn this week that Scott Braddock had lost his job with News 92.1-FM in Houston.

Braddock, who previously worked as a radio reporter in Houston, Dallas and Austin,  has a well-earned reputation around the state for high-quality, fair journalism. He returned to Houston last November to help launch the city’s new FM news station, News 92. His three-hour morning show tackled some of the most controversial and important issues facing Texas, from immigration and border issues to energy and the environment.

Last Friday morning, he broadcast an interview with Austin writer Carolyn Jones about her first-person account in the Observer of her ordeal with Texas’ new pre-abortion sonogram law. Jones’ powerful piece raises questions about whether politicians should be meddling in one of the most personal decisions a woman can make.

On Tuesday—two business days after the Jones interview aired—Braddock was called into his boss’s office and fired.

The timing has led to speculation that abortion politics contributed to Braddock’s firing.

The president of Texans for Life, Kyleen Wright, emailed the station to protest Braddock’s firing. “[H]he is one of the few news guys I always make time for—he does his own homework and works very hard to be fair to both sides, a rare commodity in broadcasting today,” Wright wrote.  Quorum Report, Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle posted stories suggesting that abortion politics may have led to Braddock’s firing.

I certainly hope that Braddock wasn’t fired for simply practicing good journalism—airing a good interview on an important subject for public debate.

The reasons for Braddock’s firing aren’t clear. The station managers, who work for the national company Radio One, have refused to comment on his termination.

Braddock says he can’t be sure why he was let go, but he says the  stated reason—that he guest-hosted a friend’s radio show on another station—doesn’t make sense. “There’s been no explanation for it that’s been given that adds up,” he told me.

Last Friday night, Braddock hosted a show on KPFT, the listener-supported Pacifica station in Houston and aired the Jones interview that he had conducted earlier in the day for News 92.

As Quorum Report noted, Braddock didn’t obtain permission, but didn’t think he had to. Braddock says it’s not unusual for radio hosts to fill in on other stations.

He suspects that his bosses weren’t pleased with the content of his show, By taking on controversial issues, Braddock’s show differed from the  rest of News 92’s content, which Braddock terms “fires and shootings…crime blotter type of stuff” and other local items. Braddock says that media outlets must have the courage to cover complex, controversial topics—like abortion, immigration, education, and the environment—from all sides. Otherwise, “It doesn’t give anybody any perspective on decisions they’re going to have to make. Who they’re going to vote for. Do they need to contact their congressman? Do they need to show up at their school board meeting tonight?”

I called Doug Abernethy, the regional vice president for Radio One, which owns News 92, for his side of the story. Abernethy refused again to comment on Braddock’s firing. But he did stress he thinks “Scott is a very talented reporter.”

Abernethy said he was pleased with the quality and content of Braddock’s show; it was what managers expected when they heavily recruited Braddock to join the station last fall.

Asked if the sonogram interview contributed to Braddock’s firing, Abernethy said, “I don’t think he got reprimanded for any content he had on the air last week. … There wasn’t even a discussion [among station managers] about any of his shows last week.”

I don’t know what the truth is here. But what is clear is that one of the state’s best radio journalists is now off the air. I hope it doesn’t stay that way for long.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.