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Don't feed us animals!

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I don't doubt that a couple conventioneers in Tampa threw peanuts at a CNN camerawoman the other day. There is no reason for the woman or other witnesses to lie about it.

I do, however, wonder if it was racially motivated because the camera operator, Patricia Carroll, is African American or if it was an attack on journalists in general.

One of the peanut throwers said "This is how we feed the animals." Well, ya know, journalists — especially on a national level and more especially those who must sort out political lies for a living — are not exactly at the top of the respect heap. Being referred to as animals is probably one of the nicer insults some in our profession ever receive.

Still, I don't know what all might have been said that caused Carroll to believe it was a racist attack and to say it should serve as "a wake-up call" to African Americans. Perhaps there was more to it.

For that matter, given how the Republican party has been viewed (rightly or wrongly) in its treatment of women and female issues the past several months, it might have been a sexist action rather than racist.

The point I'm after here is that journalists are often subject to scorn, especially when we are covering stories that have two very different sides. In those cases the only thing we can do is our best to cover the stories honestly and fairly; even then, we will not satisfy everybody.

We must also step carefully into making agreements with sources ahead of interviews, agreements that would include steering clear of certain subjects. A reporter who interviewed Mitt Romney recently was gushing about how she had to agree NOT to ask about Medicare or Missouri congressman Todd Akin, the one who said women don't get pregnant during a rape.

The reporter agreed and got a brief interview with Romney, who now is the Republican presidential nominee, even though he refused to talk about the two biggest news items of the day.

At first I let self-righteous thoughts creep into my head. I thought, "I would have told the Romney handlers they could forget it and then walked away from the interview. That would have been a better story to report."

Then came reflection. Would I have really done that? Would I pass up a private interview of that magnitude just to feel right, even knowing the candidate would not be revealing anything groundbreaking to little ol' me? I honestly don't know. We are a competitive lot, so perhaps it would make a difference if I was going to get the only interview among local media if I agreed to those terms.

A few years ago I unwittingly allowed myself to get handled by the White House just before a presidential visit to Peoria. I reported information I was told was exclusive. So, of course, I was hot for it. It was going to be a big local and national scoop.

The information I was fed wasn't entirely accurate and I was left looking foolish. In the grand scheme of things it turned out to not be a very big deal. Still, it was one of my lowest moments as a journalist. That may be why I felt indignant at first toward the reporter who made the agreement with Romney.

Thank goodness we are not perfect. If we were we wouldn't need to be so thick skinned. You know, thick as in animal hide?

I certainly don't mean to make light of the incident in Tampa. It was deplorable. But these days I'd rather be called an animal than a politician.

Growl.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).