Where USF faculty, students and graduates are invited to talk about journalism and its problems and opportunities. This blog is not affiliated with the University of San Francisco, nor is the university responsible for any of the opinions expressed herein -- though it is certainly responsible for the people who entertain those opinions, having educated them. They make us proud.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

When Nice People Work for Naughty Media

Here's a fine kettle of fish from Lia Steakley up in Seattle.

Reporters occasionally have to keep their political/personal views
separate from their work, right? Remember the SF Chronicle reporter
that was allegedly fired for calling in sick to participate in the war
protest in downtown San Francisco?

But what about newspapers' actions calling into question your
credibility as a reporter and potentially marring your resume?
It's not uncommon for a scathing editorial to come back and haunt
reporters. As a city reporter my sources either got friendlier or more
tight-lipped during political races depending on which candidates were
endorsed by my newspaper's editorial board.

So consider what it's like to work at an alternative weekly that
decides to host an amateur porn film festival? The Stranger, a little
like the San Francisco Bay Guardian, is a beloved alternative weekly
in Seattle. Content wise is usually a big feature on some social
welfare problem or injustice a heaping serving of reviews of unknown
bands and indie films mixed with a few columns on city government,
restaurants and art.

However, it also hosts an amateur porn film festival in Seattle called
HUMP. I think this event started last year since the newspaper is
accepting applications for HUMP2 right now.

[Reader alert the following link might anger university administrators
and offend those with good taste] http://www.thestranger.com/hump
Now. Aside from the obvious question of "Should media, undeniable
defender of free speech, sponsor such an event?"

There are a few career questions that come to mind.

This event started last year. So if you were working at the newspaper
and heard it was going to sponsor an amateur porn film festival, would
to keep your job? (Keep in mind that reporting jobs are few and far
between in Seattle so this likely means you're leaving town to find

Okay, forget quitting. You need a paycheck. But would you dare to
speak out against the event, assuming you didn't agree with it, to
editors and general members of the public? Porn is often a question of
free speech, right? Isn't that what Larry Flynt taught us? And aren't
journalists supposed to defend free speech?

Assuming you stay, and quietly keep your thoughts to yourself, what do
you tell sources and future employers when they ask about your time at
the newspaper that sponsors an amateur porn film festival?


Patrick Lagreid said...

Two choices --

1) Tell them what you think they want to hear.

2) Tell the truth, and accept the consequences of working there.

Both of which can be shaded by saying that you focused on non-pornorgraphic topics, such as welfare, road improvement, etc., and that even though the paper sponsors one type of event, they are still committed to covering lots of other important issues and events.

Patrick Lagreid said...

Not that this is the same thing exactly, but in the radio business, I get asked to voice commercials a lot, most of them just use me as a voice and not as a personality/endorser.

Do I have the ethical responsibility not to voice spots for products/groups that I don't agree with? For example, if I have issues with gun ownership, should I be voicing spots for the Washington Arms Collectors' upcoming gun show?