The Des Moines Register is even more unpopular than the New York Times, if you can believe it. They drew everyone’s ire by running a hit piece on some poor guy, Carson King, whose viral sign to raise money for more beer accidentally raised a million dollars and he decided to give it all to sick children. As Jim Treacher reported earlier in the week, you have to destroy that guy.
To recap: A guy donated $1 million to a children’s hospital, so his local newspaper dug up some bad tweets from when he was a teenager. He did a good thing and gained national attention for it, and our moral, ethical, and intellectual betters in the press had to put him in his place.
The Register received a huge backlash for this and online investigators discovered that the reporter who dug up the tasteless tweets had several of his own that were far worse. Naturally, everyone demanded he be fired. They eventually fired him, but not before they went back to writing profiles of Carson King, to everyone’s horror. First they drag the guy through the mud, then they write about him like they didn’t do that to him in the first place, for clicks. On Thursday they published an article titled “Carson King raises more than $500,000 for children’s hospital amid controversy,” and then never bothered to say that they themselves created the controversy! (Note: I would normally link the source, but in this case, I don’t think they deserve the clicks on the back of that man they tried to destroy, do you?)
The editor, Carol Hunter, published a long explanation (again) on Thursday night, trying to explain the paper’s decision. Noticeably absent in this second explanation was an apology to King.
The Des Moines Register staff has heard from hundreds of people in the past few days upset over our handling of a story on Carson King, the 24-year-old whose Busch Light sign on ESPN’s “College GameDay” show launched more than a million dollars in donations to an Iowa children’s hospital.
We’ve listened with an open mind to everyone, but especially Iowans, the people who are our neighbors, who care as much as we do about our state and everyone who lives here.
And we hear you: You’re angry, you’re disappointed and you want us to understand that.
Hunter spent an enormous amount of ink trying to release the paper from responsibility because she claims they never published King’s tweets. No, that’s right. They didn’t. Instead, their reporter went to King personally and told him they had the tweets and presumably would use them, so King went to the press begging for forgiveness, knowing how this would play out. In Hunter’s mind, this absolves them from any culpability, since King told on himself.
King’s generosity is a great story, and the Stead Family Children’s Hospital is a great cause. The story shifted Tuesday evening, however, when King held a news conference with local TV stations to acknowledge racist tweets from his past, and Busch Light, one of the companies bankrolling his fundraising, distanced itself from him.
The Register reporter writing the profile had discovered the tweets on King’s public timeline earlier in the day, and he asked King about them. King, to his credit, expressed immediate regret.
Worse, Hunter claimed that they do this to every feel-good human interest story. I don’t believe her.
Some of you wonder why journalists think it’s necessary to look into someone’s past. It’s essential because readers depend on us to tell a complete story.
In this case, our initial stories drew so much interest that we decided to write a profile of King, to help readers understand the young man behind the handmade sign and the outpouring of donations to the children’s hospital. The Register had no intention to disparage or otherwise cast a negative light on King.
In doing backgrounding for such a story, reporters talk to family, friends, colleagues or professors. We check court and arrest records as well as other pertinent public records, including social media activity. The process helps us to understand the whole person.
There have been numerous cases nationally of fundraising for a person experiencing a tragedy that was revealed as a scam after media investigated the backgrounds of the organizer or purported victim.
As journalists, we have the obligation to look into matters completely, to aid the public in understanding the people we write about and in some cases to whom money is donated.
This is nonsense. And no one is satisfied. Readers do NOT depend on newspapers to ruin our neighbors’ lives with their intrusive doxxing. That is exactly what everyone hates about the media. Remember Don Henley’s song? “Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down…we want dirty laundry.” That wasn’t a love ballad. It was a scathing review of the way the average person sees the news media, gleefully reporting murder and mayhem and doxxing people and destroying reputations. It’s not supposed to be your theme song, Ms. Hunter.
So what you're doing is basic CYA, not issuing an apology to Mr. King, and hoping your readers accept your obfuscation.
The only thing you've actually achieved is a hot ratio.
— Schadenfreudelish (@aggierican) September 27, 2019
Hunter forgets that other journalists are watching this go down. You don’t spend hours or days digging into the past of a person who isn’t accused of anything other than donating money to sick kids.
As for criminal background checks, I simply do not believe they do that to every single person they profile. I have used criminal background checks on my subjects before but only in cases where there was some allegation and I needed to make sure that the person wasn’t a serial offender or something. This would come in handy if the subject was accusing someone else of wrongdoing. In that case, you check that one very thoroughly to make sure you’re not being lied to. There is NO REASON to do a criminal background check on a guy who donated money to a hospital. None. And anyone who tells you that is necessary is not telling the truth.
If "The Register had no intention to disparage or otherwise cast a negative light on King."
Then why did, "Register editors discussed at length whether to include information about the tweets and King’s remorse in our profile,"
— Rob Richardson (@knm3) September 27, 2019
Finally, there is no apology to King in this twisted screed. Why not? They know what they did was wrong. They’re losing subscribers over it in large numbers and yet they refuse to apologize and seem as if they are doubling down on their policy to thoroughly investigate any person they ever name in print. You people in Iowa better stay out of the news unless you want your garbage gone through by Des Moines Register staffers! They are the most thorough reporters on earth, except when it comes to investigating their own staff members who put the n-word all over their Twitter feeds.
I have laughed at the media with their bias and obvious agenda in the past, but today I’m actually embarrassed and angry to be associated with these people. This is shameless and unconscionable. The editing staff here at PJ Media say no to irrelevant witch hunts all the time. We don’t torch people for tweets they made when they were 16 (unless you’re one of these awful DesMoines Register reporters who think it’s okay to do that to others. In that case, it’s open season). What Hunter is describing is not journalism. It’s journo-terrorism. There’s a difference.