Moral uprightness versus fun: The tuxedo dilemma

In Biz on February 26, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Newspaper folks don’t get a whole lot of credit for it, but they tend to be pretty morally upright. Journalism courses in America focus a lot on ethics (supposedly, training in Britain is more practical, less theoretical; I have no idea about the rest of the world, but it’d be interesting in an “Inside Baseball” way to dig into that, but I digress), journalists love to hash out the ethics of this or that editorial decision, and trash the living hell out of their colleagues should they cross the line.We at SmartNews may have crossed said line. Not in a Jayson Blair way, or even a Judith Miller way (props to the Gray Lady for botching it so horribly), but in our own, inimitable fashion. We accepted a favor from a local business. And we mentioned that business in a news story.Here’s how it went down: A tuxedo shop offered SmartNews free tux rentals for all its black-tie engagements. As of this writing, I don’t know whether this was done in part as a trade for ads. Well, this is blue collar, Army-town Fayetteville, N.C., and we’re SmartNews, the smart-alecky upstart. How many opportunities for black-tie are we even going to have?Our correspondent, James Johnson, got wind of the offer first, and jumped at the opportunity to do a goofy piece on unlikely stuff one could do in a tux. I guess he knew that reporters are seldom invited to formal events. So he wrote a silly item on wierd stuff to do in a tux, including bowling. We ran a photo of James bowling in a tux. The story mentioned the rent-free tux.Then SmartNews sponsored an Oscar-night charity fundraiser. Formal attire preferred.Next thing you know, I’m getting fitted for a rent-free tux. As she hems up my sleeves and pants, the proprietor (a really sweet, Southern lady) regaled us with bits of her life story. She makes it clear she’d like to have that story told in print. And it is, in fact, a good story. I make no promises. As we leave, the proprietor (a really sweet Southern lady) insists we take some of her business cards to distribute at the event.

… more to come, but I gotta run …


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