April 25, 2005
After work last night I drove down into the Beast and sat on a panel at the Burton Barr Library on "Ethics On The Editorial Page." When you read the news item that spawned this debate (see below) you'll understand immediately why I was asked to join the debate.
On December 2, 2003, the Tucson Citizen published a reader's letter suggesting U.S. troops in Iraq should retaliate for shots fired at them by going into mosques and killing Muslims. Never mind that the letter writer meant this should be applied only in a war zone, the Muslim community in Tucson sued the newspaper alleging "civil assault" and "intentional infliction of emotional distress."
Held on the fourth floor of the sprawling, steel-and-glass, Will Bruder designed library, the panel consisted of the lawyer defending the newspaper (David Bodney), a journalist from Tucson, a Scottsdale City Councilman (Jim Lane), an editorial writer for the East Valley Tribune (Mark Scarp), an editorial writer from the Republic (Doug MaCeachern) and another guy from broadcast news.
I was there for one reason only—comic relief. And when I take an assignment like this, I aim to please. I think I did okay . During the break at 7:30 I walked by a woman sitting in the front row who I spied nodding off during the discussion and said, "Are we keeping you up?" and she looked at me kind of stunned and said, "You woke me up." I took this as high praise. So I was feeling pretty good about myself by the time I got back to the cookies and veggie tray. As I loaded up with free food, a woman standing next to me asked if I was proud of myself for teaching naughty words to the "innocent child" at the meeting (an Arizona Republic editor brought her young daughter). I laughed, thinking she was joking but when I quickly thought about it, I really hadn’t said anything "naughty," and asked, "What words?" She grabbed a couple short carrots and said, "You know, like 'beaver.'" Oh, that naughty word!
I had told the story about Wyatt Earp claiming to have been hunting buffalo in 1872 but that a recent census find showed him actually living in a whore house in Peoria, Illinois in 1872. I quipped that he was apparently not hunting buffalo. . . I don't think the little girl was damaged, but you never know.
Future Arizona Republic Headline:
YOUNG GIRL SUES TRUE WEST EDITOR FOR INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS OVER BEAVER COMMENT!
The general consensus of the forum is that there is less tolerance for reasoned disagreement. And I think the above anecdote proves the point
Got home at about 9:30 and couldn't go to sleep (these kinds of events get me wound up) so I read about the pulp poetry of Charles Bukowski in the New Yorker. And with his lurid book titles like, "Love is a Dog from Hell," and "Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit," I suddenly felt at home.
"I don’t try, I just type."
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