Journalists behaving badly

Dateline: Tue 15 May 2012

Thanks to Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana for providing that headline. His reference was to last week's loaded and somewhat sensationalized story printed by the Washington Post about Mitt Romney being a gay-basher and a naughty prankster, all rolled into one, during prep school. 

The inaccuracies and tone set in the Post's story were exposed by Ben Shapiro, writing in Big Journalism/Breitbart, which dubbed the Romney story a "hit piece" in its headline.

Forget the political angles; what is of deeper concern is the poor and prejudicial reporting that passes for news these days --- at least until some "citizen journalists" or blogger calls out MSM. Yes. Seriously. (other examples to follow in subsequent posts...)

The Post went so far as to place a former student from the school at the scene of the alleged prank, in which Romney was said to have shaved the head of a gay student. That former student, Stu Phillips, now a public school teacher, told ABC News in the aftermath of publication that he simply never witnessed the incident.

Furthermore, the sisters of the guy whose head was shaved, the late John Lauber, distanced themselves from the Post's reporting (even though they were quoted in the story).

Here's what they said after the Post published its piece, as reported by ABC News: “The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda. There will be no more comments from the family."

The problem here is agenda reporting, which is when journalists attack a story with their own bias clearly on display. Today's Indianapolis Star contains two letters to the editor, one downing political reporter Mary Beth Schneider for her one-sided political reporting (guess what? She unabashadly favors Dems) and another criticizing columnist Erika D. Smith for dismissing the belief systems of religious folks out of hand. Both these writers have a clear liberal bent, altho Smith's is not problematic in the sense that she is paid to write opinion pieces.

By the same token, the Star continues to promote -- and that is really the correct word -- the unfortunate story of "Dynasty" Young, who in truth was gay-bashed for wearing necklaces to high school and carrying purses -- but who then chose to also carry (and fire) a stun gun rather than drop the pearls. Now, we have yet "another incident" in which Young was "attacked at Circle Centre Mall" which only adds to his "anguish," according to the headline.

I can live without the anguish angle. I, for one, would appreciate some "straight" reporting on gay issues. But it probably won't happen.



Whitebeard [unverified] said:

This stuff with the Romney-haters drummed up "controversy" stinks. Whatever he did or did not do when he was a teenager has no bearing on who he is now and his campaign.

And I say this as someone who wouldn't vote for him if my life depended on it.

I did a lot of stupid stuff at that age and I don't expect anyone to berate me for it all of these decades later.

2012-05-15 12:07:25

WhatFor [unverified] said:

"By the same token, the Star continues to promote -- and that is really the correct word -- the unfortunate story of "Dynasty" Young, who in truth was gay-bashed for wearing necklaces to high school and carrying purses -- but who then chose to also carry (and fire) a stun gun rather than drop the pearls."

Wow, Ruth. So should we blame the woman for dressing provocatively when she's raped??

2012-05-15 12:43:42

Wilson46201 [unverified] said:

As one who was hospitalized after a gay-bashing, I must speak up. There are four eyewitnesses to Willard's assault and all remember with shame the brutality. Oddly, it has completely slipped Romney's mind by now -- I guess it was just another youthful indiscretion to be buried in the mists of memories -- to him it was no big deal. That's not good at all.
There was also the incident where he deliberately lead a legally-blind teacher into a closed door. (what a barrel of laffs!!!)
Teen-agers can be mean but most recall regretfully their sins later. Mitt just shrugs it off. Pitiful !

2012-05-15 13:01:35

Gary Welsh [unverified] said:

Thanks, Ruth, for sharing your thoughts. ABC News spoke to one of those present who described it not at all as brutal attack. According to that witness, Romney only pretended he was cutting the boy's hair by using the scissors to make the sound of cutting. Everyone got a good laugh out of it and went their own way. I can think of many incidents in high school that were far worse than what Horowitz attempted to portray, which had nothing to do with bullying. The Post story left the impression that Lauber was traumatized and suffered the rest of his life and died a lonely and sad man because of the incident. As Shapiro reported, his obituary that ran in the South Bend Tribune described him as living a very full and happy life with many different experiences and very proud of who he was. This incident is no more an indication of Romney's character today than a young Obama breaking a classmate's arm during a tickle fight or insulting and shoving a fat little black girl during recess to gain the approval of his classmates. The Post story was drive-by hit journalism at its worst.

2012-05-15 18:42:20

wayne bertsch [unverified] said:

RE: Whitebeard. while i agree that Romneys actions as a Teenager are not going to affect how I would vote today and I think this should be a one day story... It's how he handles these things when they come up that makes me doubt his competence as a leader. The way he apologized for it was starting down the right path , but he revealed his weasel-like qualities with the claim of "not remembering it" while at the same time saying he "Didn't know he was gay" ....well you either remember or you don't.... similarly yesterday him ducking reporters at the rope line... I mean if you cant handle Andrea Mitchell what hope do you have with Putin? If he ever does anything that reveals an ounce of conviction i will be suprised...

2012-05-17 11:44:42

wayne bertsch [unverified] said:

Ruth, I think whether he wants to wear pearls or not should have nothing to do with this. It's like accusing the rape victim of "asking for it" because they wear a mini-skirt. IPS needs to look at the two incidents as separate and act on both boldly and quickly. 1 incident is bullying and they should've acted on harshly and immediately. the other is the taser and I think it needed reacted to as well. I would've suspended all the bullies and Dynasty. all the parties including educators who turned a blind eye should have to take a sensitivity training class.

2012-05-17 11:51:35

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Wayne, I agree with you on your comment about Romney. At the time I read the stories of his behavior at prep school, I had not heard about his less-than-sterling responses to questions about it.

2012-05-17 12:02:04

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

I don't know, Ruth, but I worked with Mary Beth a lot and I never saw personal bias creep into her political reporting.

I did think the Post story was absurd. But it did reveal in Romney's response to it a warp in his character.

And I have been following the Young story, which I think is problematic and complex on many levels, and that may be the genius of it. I think the reporting has been "straight" I suspect that it is and incredibly tough experience for anyone going to Arsenal Tech. Is it wrong for him to call attention to himself by carrying purses or wearing necklaces? No more so, I would argue, than the teen who wears expensive and ostentatious sneakers as a show of identity.

It's a variegated world we live in.

2012-05-17 12:08:27

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Yeah, this kid should be able to wear what he wants to wear without being hassled.

I'm straight, but I wore "love beads" (necklace) to school when I was his age during the Vietnam War. It was part of my hippie persona at the time. I got hassled to the max by jocks and sons and daughters of Republicans.

Back in those days, if you went to a school administrator to complain about being bullied, they'd tell you to solve it with your knuckles after school. I did that on many occasions.

2012-05-17 12:27:37

Crossedwires [unverified] said:

So when do we get the post on Gary Varvel's personal bias?
When do we get the post on Russ Pulliam's personal bias?
Calling out one side and not the other is bias in itself is it not?

2012-05-18 08:04:34

George Stuteville [unverified] said:


Your memory of those days is spot-on. I remember once when I was a kid, I was wearing my love beads as part of my normal daily costume. This must have been around 1968-69. I was caddying at The Evansville Country Club, carrying double for two of the club's best golfers and, incidentally, prominent families in our city. Shortly after we started the round, one of the guy's game started heading south and he was hacking the ball all over the hilly course. I think he had something like a quadruple bogey on a par five hole. His response when we finally got up to the tee on the next hole was to berate me for looking like a hippie slob and how in the world did my mother let me out of the house looking like I did that morning and that I was probably the worst caddy at the place. He made me feel like dirt. And instead of dropping his golf bag on the ground and pissing on it, like I should have done, I meekly carried it for another two hours hauling his bag and his partner's back and forth over the fairways on the back side. When it was over, he paid me the minimum in those days -- $3.50. It was worth it, I guess, for the lesson he also taught about arrogance and bullying and transferring one's anger onto someone or something else that really, for one reason or another, couldn't fight back. That summer I had to caddy for him (the "luck" of the draw) several more times. I was still wearing my love beads all the while. Of course, he never apologized, but I think somehow his conscience was stung because he upped my pay to the unheard of sum of $7 for a round -- the minimum plus a 100 percent tip. Who can understand human behavior? Not me. But I will say that those years of caddying taught me a ton about human nature and social grace.

2012-05-18 08:47:16

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Dynasty Young was smacked in the face at CC Mall last Sat. night, by a man who decried Dynasty's public appearances, gay status and general attire/demeanor. In front of witnesses, including Dynaty's twin brother. All of which is detailed in the police report.

The man was rightfully arrested. He'll have a chance to explain himself in court.

Dynasty Young over-accessorized in school and refused to "butch up." His mom had 10--repeating--TEN---visits/phone discussions with the school over a long period, to ask them to protect her son. Was she as articulate as she could've been? Maybe not. But the message was clear: "my son is in danger." Not everyone can deliver that message calmly.

She bought a $19.99 "stun gun" at a ghetto variety store that makes a lot of noise, but is powered only by a 9v battery--the same kind you use in your home smoke detector. The sorry truth is that IPS policy closely-defines stun guns according to specific cites in Indiana code. This wasn't a stun-gun.

Indiana law and IPS policy don't have a caveat for stun guns that "look" real--state law has such citations for guns that look real. Guess what? Money-making businessmen decided to stock the "stun guns" in their urban stores, and are able to do so without weapons permits--for a reason. They're exploiting a nuiance in the law (and inadvertently, in IPS policy).

But that's a small point. Re-read federal Title 9--no student can be subjected to school demands that (s)he "change" their demeanor to "get along." It's offensive and disgusting. All the proof you need on that score was uttered by none less than the Tech principal--in The Star. When he should've kept his mouth shut on a pending discipline case. If that principal isn't severely disciplined, taxpayers should demand it.

I think the Young family understands they violated district policy. They appear to have accepted the suspension. An expulsion is akin to squirrel hunting with a cannon.

Kids are hiding and dying, Ruthie. Bullying is rampant, and not just against gay kids. A school systme cannot send this kind of message, or there will be hugely-unintended consequences. IPS ought to be ashamed over Dr. White's unrelenting defense of a principal's ridiculous public statements.

And don't look now--but that tide is turning, evidenced by Tuesday's one-vote shift and an independent investigator, against Dr. White's stern wishes.

That whole damned system is miserably broken. Dynasty's case--imperfect on all fronts--is but a symbol of demise. It struck a chord in this city.

And it's far from over.

2012-05-18 15:47:09

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