Monday, April 25, 2005
Drinking on the job: A reporter and photographer for the Kalamazoo Gazette have been canned for partaking in some adult beverages while doing a story on "beer pong."
This is a far cry from a story that was done at The Daily World in Aberdeen, Wash., under the headline "Plaster gets plastered." The cops reporter, Mike Plaster, was asked if he'd like to cover/participate in a training session for the local cops on how to identify someone who is drunk. They picked Mike up at home, drove him to the police station and allowed him -- along with various other community volunteers -- to consume all variety of alcoholic beverages. After each drink, the cops used various techniques to determine if he was drunk. Mike was a proud graduate of Washington State. In Pullman, there's apparently not much to do except drink. In short order it became obvious that Mike was drunk.
When he actually wrote the story, he interviewed the cops about his own behavior. Why? Because he couldn't remember much of it. His picture appeared on the front page with him "playing" air guitar.
It was a great story. Obviously the situation in Kalamazoo was quite different, with a college student having died from alcohol poisoning.
But the Kalamazoo story also prompts a couple of other questions. Yes, drinking on the job is barred at just about every newspaper (it didn't used to be that way). But what other ethical problems could've been facing that reporter and photographer as they visited that off-campus apartment to watch beer pong? Were their minors present and drinking? Is it unethical for them to sit there and witness that illegal activity without informing police? I'm sure you can come up with other "what-ifs" but I think firing was probably a little excessive in this case.
Especially when you've got the really big papers taking a collective yawn over a sportswriter inventing facts.