If you listen over the weekends to American Public Media is “On The Media”, heard on NPR stations nationwide, you’ll hear the hosts, Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, sniffling and shuffling about the state of the modern media. Periodically, the subject turns to “journalistic ethics”.
Most media organizations will point to something called the “Code of Ethics,” from the Society of Professional Journalists”. No, we’ve been over the Code before; it basically does nothing but give news media a framework by which they can declare just about any behavior “ethical”.
And just you watch – that’s exactly what is going to happen with this story :
ABC-57 reporter Alyssa Marino’s editor sends her on a half-hour drive southwest of their South Bend studio, to the small town of Walkerton (Pop. ~2,300). According to Alyssa’s own account on Twitter, she “just walked into their shop [Memories Pizza] and asked how they feel” about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Owner Crystal O’Connor says she’s in favor of it, noting that while anyone can eat in her family restaurant, if the business were asked to cater a gay wedding, they would not do it. It conflicts with their biblical beliefs. Alyssa’s tweet mentions that the O’Connors have “never been asked to cater a same-sex wedding.”
What we have here is — as we called in journalism school jargon — “no story.” Nothing happened. Nothing was about to happen.
If I were forced to mark out a story line, it would be this: A nice lady in a small town tries to be helpful and polite to a lovely young reporter from “the big city.”
In other words, Memories Pizza didn’t blast out a news release. They didn’t contact the media, nor make a stink on Twitter or Facebook. They didn’t even post a sign in the window rejecting gay-wedding catering jobs. They merely answered questions from a novice reporter who strolled into their restaurant one day – who was sent on a mission by an irresponsible news organization.
So I’m gonna make sure I tune in “On the Media” this weekendand, to see by what logically torturous path they find this behavior by the media justified.
I don’t know how they’ll do it.
I only know that they will.