'Heavens to Betsy!' Readers React to Journos Axed for Drinking Beer

By: Greg Mitchell Even in this era of salad bars and health clubs, it's good to know some people still think journalists should live up to their old-time image -- namely, by downing a few brews at the local bar.

At least that's the message in a cascade of e-mail that followed our Monday report on a reporter and a photographer at The Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette who were axed, mainly for joining in the drinking while covering a game of beer-pong.

"Heavens to Betsy," commented one Norman S. Burzynski. "Reporters drinking beer! What's the news media becoming?" He identified himself this way: Graduate, Old Frothingslosh School of Journalism, 1953.

Reader Bob Wright simply asked what the editors at the Gazette "do for a wine writer?"

Peter Melvoin addressed his comments to the Kalamazoo editors: "Uh, now let me get this straight -- you fired two of your staffers for drinking on the job? Not for being drunk on the job, which would be questionable, but just for drinking? Well, you all must be the biggest bunch of poorly educated, newspaper history-deficient newbie managers (can't be editors if you can't drink!) in the profession of journalism.

"To presume that a reporter would not drink on the job -- not necessarily get drunk, now -- is to run a newspaper in a high school. Even college newspapers accord their staff more slack."

Matthew Gunnison Collins of New York wrote: "It's sad how quickly the memory of Hunter S. Thompson fades. You'd think that editors and journalists claiming to be ethical would have a more rounded mind for these things and not resort to such puritanical righteousness. ... It was the goal of the editors to speak disparagingly about the drinking rituals of the young, rather than to come to a true understanding of the phenomena in question. Must they be reminded that objectivity is a state of mind that guides empirical investigation? It is certainly not the wholesale rejection of experience that could test one's initial hypothesis.

"Certainly, if the journalists in question suffered severe hangovers, there would be nothing hypocritical in discussing the dangers of youthful drinking habits, as the scolding editors imply. It seems apparent that the editors at The Kalamazoo Gazette were not looking to have any hypotheses tested and an honest story told; they were looking to meet the expectations of their readers' and local leaders in an effort to marginalize the social mores of another generation. And that is hardly ethical journalism.."

Dean Berenez of Albuquerque, N.M., added: "Have just read the article about the reporter and cameraman being dismissed. The article didn't explain the problem with their having joined the party. Are these reporters held to a different standard than political reporters who take part in political gatherings where free food and drinks are available?"


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