Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On teaching the Masters a lesson those Georgia fat cats won't soon forget

Posted By on 04.10.12 at 07:47 AM

A proud tradition
  • A proud tradition
The opinions expressed in the following article do not necessarily reflect the views of this journalist. Or, I hope, of very many others.

Here's the article: “Come On, Augusta: Do the Right Thing!” It was posted by John Cassidy on the New Yorker website on April 7. Cassidy begins:

Kudos to Karen Crouse, the golf correspondent at the Times, who has raised the possibility of the media boycotting the Masters unless Augusta National, the snooty country club that hosts the tournament, agrees to admit some female members.

“If it were left to me, which it seldom is in the power structure of writer versus editor, I’d probably not come cover this event again until there is a woman member,” Crouse told Golf.com on Thursday. “More and more, the lack of a woman member is just a blue elephant in the room.”

Identifying himself as a “longtime fan of the Masters, a non-recovering golf junkie, and an occasional writer about the sport,” Cassidy more than agreed with Crouse. She was merely thinking aloud to golf.com about staying home next April. Mischaracterizing this as a call for a media boycott, he seconded the idea. "Media should think twice about covering the tournament,” he wrote. “Since the club has amply demonstrated that it can’t find the gumption to do the right thing of its own accord, it’s perhaps time to exert some outside pressure.”

Time for who to exert outside pressure? And how?

Cassidy has made me remember one of the most regrettable meetings I ever attended. It was May of 1970, the United States had just expanded the Vietnam War by invading Cambodia, and college students across the nation were abandoning their classrooms to demonstrate. (The fatal shootings at Kent State were one result.) Students at my alma mater, the University of Missouri, were no exception, and I happened to be visiting the day journalism school students confronted their professors and administrators in the school’s assembly hall over their desire to go on strike.

Eighteen years ago, I described this confrontation in the Reader. I wrote:

At first glance the students' position was baffling. After all, they staffed a citywide daily newspaper and the only TV station in town. Here was a story they understood in their bones like no story they were likely to cover in their professional careers. They wanted to make a statement with pickets, but they could say so much more by being journalists!

But this opportunity did not actually exist. The journalism-school paper, overseen by conservative rural trustees and run by timid faculty, had failed the moment. It was being outreported day in and day out by the other paper in town. The analysis and reflection that could have filled its pages went unassigned.

The students' desire to leave their posts wasn't a proud moment in journalism. It was an embarrassment. It was a moment when journalism truly wasn't equal to the occasion, not because it wasn't changing minds but because it shrank from reaching them. The business Cassidy is in is witness. Done right, journalism sends its people to interesting places to see things, hear things, and write about what they see and hear. It doesn't heal the world's ills, but it makes them known. If witnessing sexism and describing it fully and fearlessly to the public isn’t enough for Cassidy, I suggest another line of work. He might consider becoming a socialite–they live in a world where, I’ve read, a snub is devastating.

There’s nothing wrong with the sort of private act of conscience Crouse is contemplating, though I hope that by next year she's ready to try rolling the rock uphill one more time. But the idea that a media boycott will make the wicked knuckle under is daffy. It misunderstands the power of journalism, not to mention its moral authority.

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