Even if you didn’t go to the national NLGJA convention, if you’ve been reading Poynter this week you are aware that NLGJA national accepted $10,000 from Stolichnaya vodka for a networking mixer called Night Out Boston. This news was originally reported by Student Project reporter Rachel Cox, picked up by gay advocacy blogger (and Stoli boycott campaigner) Michael Petrelis and subsequently picked up by Poynter. Newshound that I am, I read everything posted about this story, and I still couldn’t really figure out what happened. So I did a little digging of my own and thought I’d share a few of my personal thoughts with you.
One: Whether you agree with the Stoli boycott or not, the fact is that the NLGJA has always been clear that as an organization for journalists it can’t ethically take political positions. That’s why the NLGJA never came out on either side of the Proposition 8 debate and why leaders felt happy to take Stoli’s sponsorship money. Of course, it would have been better to get some of that Stoli money geared specifically toward NLGJA programs rather than a drinking event, but no doubt that networking is a major reason that people attend the convention.
Two: As an organization for journalists the NLGJA does stand for fairness and accuracy; it’s right there in the mission statement. This is where Petrelis, and Andrew Beaujon at Poynter, fell a bit flat—with NLGJA’s help. As far as I’ve been able to discern, when contacted by Petrelis the organization sent out a couple of hurried statements: one that was unsigned about NLGJA’s agnostic approach to fundraising and one about the Russian Olympics controversy signed by NorCal member and national board member Ken Miguel. Petrelis merged the two statements together, attributing the Frankensteined statement to Miguel. Although he was quickly informed by the NLGJA of his mistake, Petrelis issued a noncorrection correction, eventually. But not before the story was picked up by Poynter, which also issued a vaguely worded correction. We’ve all been involved in situations like this, where quick deadlines lead to messy stories. Still, we owe it to our readers to be specific when corrected, rather than to obfuscate our mistakes.
And three: Kudos to student reporter Rachel Cox, who came to Boston ready to report. It’s been a bit overlooked that the story originally broke as part of NLGJA Connect, the student project of the NLGJA. It’s good to see that Cox is taking her role as a reporter seriously, even when the stories she finds may amount to “biting the hand that feeds you.” Way to go, Rachel.
And on the subject of the next generation of journalism professionals, I’d like to give a special plug to all the Northern California student reporters—whether they attend school here or count the Bay Area as home—to apply for the 2013 Bob Ross Scholarship. The deadline is Sept. 30 and we have money to give away to foster your career in media. Hey… maybe you’ll be the next Rachel Cox.