Case in point: last week Judy (mother of Matthew) Shepard spoke at a local university. I attended her talk and wrote about it. Any reporter, except perhaps a hyperconservative at a gay-hating publication, would’ve written the same basic story I did: Here’s who she is, here’s what she talked about, quotes from people in the audience, the end.
The story ran Saturday. I came in Monday and found a four-and-a-half-minute (I timed it) voicemail rant from a woman who declined to leave her name or any contact info, but told me I was a horrible journalist and listed various reasons why:
THINGS MENTIONED IN THE STORY: A video before the speech showed images of bigotry, including a Klan rally and a Nazi concentration camp.I offered to forward this communiqué to my boss. He told – nay, ordered – me not to.
COMMENTARY BY THE CRITIC: The Klan and the Nazis were bad, but why didn’t you say anything about the Roman Catholic priests murdered in Guadalajara in the early 1900s? What about the genocide in Sudan, huh? And the people who live in poverty and can’t get out of it? Speech impediments! Why didn’t you say anything about the problems faced by people with speech impediments? (This is all paraphrased and condensed for space, but I’m not making any of it up.)
THINGS MENTIONED IN THE STORY: Judy Shepard does not like California’s Proposition 8, and spoke of this at length.
COMMENTARY BY THE CRITIC: Proposition 8 is a political matter. Politics do not belong in a story. Not unless you tell the other side. Telling only one side of the story is very irresponsible of you. Why didn't you report the other side?
THINGS MENTIONED IN THE STORY: Judy Shepard reminisced about her son, before and after the attack.
COMMENTARY BY THE CRITIC: Gays are only one percent of the population, and it was wrong for people to make fun of (exact quote) Matthew Shepard, but gays are only one percent of the population and there are a lot of other oppressed people in the world and you should’ve mentioned them. A good journalist brings balance to a story. You don’t have any balance.
THINGS MENTIONED IN THE STORY: Nothing – not a single solitary freakin’ word – about abortion or divorce.
COMMENTARY BY THE CRITIC: And many religions think marriage is holy and divorce is a sin, especially when there are children. It can put a real strain on a marriage when there’s children from a previous one, and abortion isn’t an option for everybody because many people have strong religious objections to abortion, and divorce, and why didn’t you say anything about that? There are valid religious reasons to oppose divorce, abortion and Proposition 8, and you should have said something about them and all the people suffering with speech impediments. I have a background in journalism and you are a very bad, irresponsible and unbalanced journalist.