In journalism, we run into, well, a lot of unpleasant people. We see the unwilling jackasses, who have had assness thrust upon then, like the victims of tragedies who don’t know how to handle themselves in a crisis, to the raw criminal element, who by virtue of raw stupidity or the occasional inheritance of fetal alcohol syndrome tend to go to extremes to ruin their lives by ruining their world.
But in my opinion, the worst of the worst we see in our profession are those who should know better, but are jackasses anyway. And the worst thing that they do is try to blame it on others, and on us, the media. In the national media, the Enron debacle leaps to mind.
Here in Ada, our news staff and I have seen the worst Ada has to offer. Just recently, a reporter was threatened by the owner of some dogs that killed an elderly woman. Later, that same dog owner assaulted an Oklahoma City television crew.
I get the same static too. A couple of years ago a murder suspect threatened me if I took her picture, which of course I did, then engaged her in a staring contest, which I won. On another occasion I was covering a warehouse fire in downtown Ada, when a Burlington Northern Railroad manager told me to get the hell off their property. I got in his face and we shouted at each other for a few minutes, and I was adjudicated when he backed down. (The next day Ada Fire Chief Marion Harris came by the office to tell me he wished he’d had that guy arrested, and that I was welcome at any of their fire scenes – what a stand-up guy!)
The most obvious and egregious example of committing a bad act and then trying to blame it on me was in 1995. The staff of a popular Ada restaurant, Bandanas, had used ammonia and bleach together to try to unplug a stopped-up sink, and as most of us know (though not the staff at Bandanas), mixing the two chemicals liberates chlorine gas, which is poisonous. I heard quite a commotion on the scanner, and went right out to see if it might make pictures. I had been at the scene less than five minutes, and had not yet taken any pictures, when then-manager Keith Cosby asked Ada Police Captain Rick Carson to arrest me.
Imagine the mentality, if you could call it that, of someone whose greatest concern, in the midst of endangering a restaurant full of customers, is how it will look in the newspaper the next day. It takes a pretty small, selfish man to think of your image in a situation like that. I never once ate at Bandana’s Restaurant, or any of its owners other restaurants, again. And they never made any effort to make amends. They certainly never got any more positive coverage from the news end of the building after that, either. Some years later, they closed.
Rick Carson didn’t arrest me that night, by the way. Like most cops, he knew the law, and applied it with a huge amount of common sense. I wasn’t committing a crime, obviously, and even if I had transgressed some ordinance or another, Rick had better things to do than help Keith Cosby save face. Like saving lives.
Rick was the one who called in that warehouse fire years later, by the way, and in classic small-town fashion, it turns our that Rick and my wife Abby’s late first husband Paul were best friends growing up.