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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 19, 1995)
Thursday, January 19, 1995 Page 5
Chung forgot old-school ethics
This past New Year’s Eve, the
good ‘ol boy in me got into a bit of
All right. I didn’t “get into” a
scuffle, I started it. And it wasn’t
really a “scuffle.” A rumble is a
more accurate description.
But there I was, in Milligan, at
one of the many New Year’s Eve
post-party celebrations. I had drank
one too many beers and said one
too many words. Next thing I knew,
some other good ‘ol boy threw a fist
at my face, and the place erupted.
When I picked myself up off the
ground, I let go a few swings of my
own. And on the snow-covered yard
of some good soul who only wanted
to have a innocent party, there were
30 or 40 inebriates throwing fists
and wresting on the ice. What a
sight it was.
But I wasn’t the only one who
was throwing and absorbing a few
punches to start the new year.
In late December, CBS
newswoman Connie Chung
interviewed Rep. Newt Gingrich’s
parents in an attempt to get some
dirt on the Speaker-to-be. What
started as a friendly discussion
turned out to be the best fight of the
Sitting at the kitchen table in the
Gingrich dining room, Chung and
Gingrich’s mother, 68-year-old
Kathleen, swapped girl gossip.
Chung: Mrs. Gingrich, what has
Newt told you about President
Mrs. Gingrich: Nothing. And I
can’t tell you what he said about
Chung: You can’t?
Mrs. Gingrich: I can’t.
Chung: Why don’t you just
whisper it to me, just between you
Mrs. Gingrich: She’s a bitch.
Now that interview was taped on
Dec. 20. But CBS and Chung
waited until Jan. 4 — the day Rep.
Gingrich became Speaker Gingrich
— to air Mama Gingrich’s whis
That’s when the real fight got
Newt Gingrich verbally attacked
Chung and the American media for
what he called a lack of objectivity
and fairness. Then Chung attacked
Newt for attacking her, while
denying any wrongdoing; and a
confused Mama Gingrich asked,
“What’s the big deal?”
But this was a big deal.
Now forget that even if Newt did
call Hillary a “bitch,” he was only
fulfilling his promise to speak for
the American people. Forget that
most would agree with him. The
question isn’t what Newt said; it’s
how Connie Chung got Newt’s
mom to say what she did.
Chung’s “just between you and
me” was blatant dishonesty, a
moral low. And her screw-up was
just the latest in what has become
an era of ethical slips in American
In the old school, journalists
were taught the golden rules of
journalism: accuracy, responsibility
and objectivity. Chung strikes out
on all three, as do most of today’s
The job of the press is to record
and report events. That’s all.
Instead, journalists today stand up
and cheer for one cause or another.
How else does one explain the
media’s obsession with gay rights ‘
and other liberal battle cries?
Not only has this social activism
of the media caused confusion
between real news and tabloid
material, but today’s journalists
have become Utopians. They are
trying to change the world to fit in
their impossible mold of idealism.
This activism was obvious in
Chung’s holiday battle with
Gingrich. Chung and the rest of the
“dominant media culture” have a
hard time accepting that Newt and
Co. are now. in control of Congress.
So naturally they try to make the
Republicans look bad.
It’s because of this activism that
the media refuses to give us neutral
information; instead, they report
liberal moral fables, complete -with
instructions on how we should feel
about who and what. It has gone
beyond noble to plain unethical.
Is it any wonder the media are
now less popular with the Ameri
can public than this columnist at a
Coming Out Day celebration?
Journalists don’t need to be
sitting around in the classroom or
in the newsroom pondering why
our popularity and influence
continue to decline. A self-superior
ity complex and unabashed ma
nipulation of the news have made
the press the rightful new target of
the American public.
Clearly, no one wants to kill the
messenger — or at least not yet. AH
we need is the messenger to quit
tampering with the damned
message. We have to get back to
basic, old-fashioned journalism,
despite the technological advances.
Yes, mistakes will always be
made. Even at this stage in my
journalistic career, I have made
unfortunate ethical blunders.
Usually we learn from mistakes.
But the professionals aren’t
What about my own New Year’s
fight? Well, I awoke the next
morning with a black eye that
consumed the left half of my face.
Fortunately, it lasted only for a
Connie Chung, too, got a shiner
as a reminder of her scuffle. Too
bad for Connie, she — along with
her colleagues — will feel this one
for a long time to come.
Karl Is a junior news-editorial major
and a Dally Nebraskan night news editor
Despite cold. Lincoln’s notbad
In the infamous words of one
Jimmy Buffett, “I was out in
California where I hear they have it
all. They got riots, fires and mud
slides. They got sushi at the mall.”
I am here to attest that all of this
and more is true. Being a native
Californian myself, there is no one
more qualified than I to speak (or
write) on the topic of that well
publicized, but not very well
Sure, so there are riots every
now and then, and a few earth
quakes large enough to shake a
200-year-old oak tree out of its
roots, but you have to lode past all
that and find the inner beauty.
All right, I give up! Who am I
kidding? If California was such a
wonderful place, I never would
have left it to spend the best years
of my life in the arctic zone. Ask
some Californians in their right
mind if they would like to spend
four years of their life in Nebraska,
and most will probably tell you that
you have had your head stuck in the
snow for too long. Who would want
to trade the sunshine (when it’s not
raining buckets) and the ocean for
com, flat land and snow blizzards?
Well, meet one Californian who
did! I spent my whole life prepar
ing, like my Mends and siblings, to
one day attendfohe of the illustrious
University of California campuses.
Little did I figure on a drought,
riots, fires or floods to come in the
way of my education. With each
new natural disaster came new and
imaginative ways for the state of
California to make its citizens pay
for die cleanup.
Year after year I watched tuition
rates go up and the quality of
education go down. No longer did
getting into a quality university
depend on your academic standing
and personal accomplishments;
now it depended on the size of your
bank account. I looked for a way
Then it happened. During a visit
to see my brother, who is attending
Creighton University’s School of
Pharmacy and Allied Health in
Omaha, I made a short stop to visit
the University of Nebraska. At the
time, Nebraska wasn’t exactly the
alternative education I was looking
for. My parents practically dragged
me kicking and screaming to tour
the campus. I think they probably
enjoyed it more than I did.
Just like people have precon
ceived ideas and stereotypes about
California, I too had my ideas about
Nebraska, and the Midwest in
general. A true California girl at
heart, I expected to be approached
by a bunch of shotgun-toting,
driving hillbillies fresh off the
farm. Instead, I met a lot of nice
people who just live life a little
differently and like to call a soda a
“pop.” I still to this day cannot
figure out why people in the
Midwest insist on calling it that. A
“pop” is a noise and nothing more,
but that’s another column for
After the tour of the campus, I
headed back to sunny California to
ponder my decision. It wasn’t the
university itself that bothered me, it
was more the prospect of spending
all winter in thermal underwear
and wool socks! Before I left
California, 45 degrees was about as
cold as cold got. I hadn’t even seen
snow fall before last year, let alone
a blizzard or thunderstorm that
rolls you right out of bed. Com
pared to all that, a few earthquakes
didn’t seem so bad.
To make a long story short, I just
couldn’t see myself spending
$13,000 or more a year to attend an
overcrowded public university
where your social security number
and first name were one and the
same. The decision was made, and
in August of 1993 I found myself
and about 12 suitcases on the steps
of the University of Nebraska.
I’ll always love California, even
with all its faults. California will
always be home, but Nebraska will
remain one of the greatest experi
ences in my life. So when people
ask me, and believe me they do
(twice a day at least), why I came to
Nebraska from California, I simply
say, “I’m lucky, I guess!”
Nebraska may not be a hotbed of
fun and excitement or an attractive
vacation site for stars and their
families, but what it does have is a
great university. It makes it a little
easier to bear the cold when I know
that I’m getting a good education.
Besides, I get tor spend winter break
on the beach in Malibu, so all’s
well that ends well!
Flastea It a sophomore pre-pharmacy
major aad a Daily Nebraskaa colamaist
Threshold of fear
not easy to define
When I hear these stories I
often try to imagine the original
scene at the office.
What was in the mind of
David Heller when he cut out a
photograph of Sylvia Bowman,
the 61-year-old co-worker
running for union president, and
glued her head to the body of a
naked model, spread-eagled and
holding a banana?
Why didn’t the first five s
colleagues in the office who saw
this “artwork” tell him to bum it
and to crawl back into his cave?
But that was the scene in
1987, and now the venue is a
courtroom. Last week, the tale
arrived at the Massachusetts
Supreme Judicial Court, and it
may well be headed for United
States Supreme Court. The case
of Sylvia Bowman vs. David
Heller has become the latest and
perhaps most heralded example
of the conflict between sexual
harassment and free speech.
Of course, if Bowman had
been running for president of the
United States instead of president
of the union, she wouldn’t have
had a case. People have the right
to say whatever they want about
public figures, in words or
pictures. Remember when
Hustler magazine depicted Jerry
Falwell having sex with his
mother in an outhouse? The
Supreme Court called it satire.
If, on the other hand, David
Heller had created such images
about a woman co-worker or
underling who wasn’t running
for office, he wouldn’t have had
much of a defense. Remember
when Teresa Harris sued her boss
for abusive language? The
Supreme Court said that words
could make a sexually offensive
environment. They called it
But union politics lie some
where between the free market
place of ideas where anything
goes and the workplace where
there are legal limits to what you
can say to a “captive audience”
So Heller’s lawyer, the
ubiquitous Alan Dershowitz,
argues that Sylvia Bowman had
willingly plunged into “the rough
and tumble” of a political
campaign for which she needed a
tougher hide. And Bowman’s
lawyer, Nancy Shilepsky, argues
that Heller attacked her as a
woman, not a candidate, and that
destroyed her ability to work.
Bowman was indeed trauma
tized. The lower court ruled that
the “artwork” wasn’t satire. It
was harassment. But this case
falls into the famous gray area
that often makes for better
conversation than law.
Today, if there’s a misunder
standing between men and
women about sexual harassment,
it’s about verbal, not physical,
attacks. It’s about words and die
threshold of fear.
As Deborah Tannen writes in
“Talking Nine to Five,” women
often experience — feel — the
threat of physical assault in what
men think of as merely words.
She describes the reactions to
one woman’s midnight cab ride
with a driver who berated her for
miles. Other women who hear
this story usually share her
terror. Men often believe that
yelling isn’t so serious. Life, it
seems, has finely tuned women’s
antennae to sounds of male
But life has also taught girls
from the earliest playground
experiences that it may be unsafe
to fight their own battles against
boys. Daughters are told, and
learn, to go to the teacher, and
then the dean, and then the law.
But sometimes it’s not dangerous
—just difficult — to deal
directly with the offender.
Bowman was devastated by
these grotesque images, in part,
because of her earlier experiences
of abuse. But Heller had no
history of hostility. Nor were
women a beleaguered minority in
their workplace. And she was
running for office.
So as a First Amendment
junkie and an opponent of sexual
harassment, I think that this case
sits right on the border between
the laws allowing speech and
forbidding discrimination. Either
way I look, the view is unhappy.
Bowman v. Heller may be
resolved on the narrow grounds
of labor-union law. But in the
volatile area of sexual harass
ment, we’ve all got to learn how
to get out of the gray area
without getting into court.
Sometimes perhaps shame is as
good as a lawsuit.
Oh, by the way, did I tell you
where Bowman and Heller
worked? The Department of
Welfare. That’s right.. They
belonged to the union of social
workers, those people trained in
human skills, the art of helping
others to get along.
© 1995The Boston Globe News paper Com
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