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Barbaric assignment?

Dear Coach,

I just found out I am covering the rodeo this summer. It is a huge deal here ..., lasting a few weeks. I hate bulls, bull riding, steer wrestling, all the events that to me just reek of animal cruelty. Can I refuse the assignment? How should I deal with a reporting project that I think is barbaric, with values that make me cringe? – No Bull, Please

Dear No Bull:

Please do not make the mistake this early in your career of refusing to cover a story because you think the subject is “barbaric.”

This has nothing to do with rodeos. It has everything to do with you.

If you were asked to cover a KKK rally, would you not go because you thought the KKK immoral?

If you were asked to cover an execution, would you refuse because you didn’t agree with capital punishment?

A reporter’s job is to deal with the community fairly, accurately, contextually – without reservation or bias.

Your first obligation is to the truth, just as a doctor’s first obligation is to heal, or a judge's is to justice. That's why doctors treat enemy soldiers and judges rule in ways that aren’t always in line with their personal views.

Some people think rodeos are cruel. But rodeo fans don’t think that at all.

You are being asked to cover a rodeo – to discover the who, what and why of the folks who go there and love it. To give people who are not there a sense of what it is like to be there. Who goes to rodeos? Men, women, white people, people of different races? What do they like about it? What role does it play in their community? Where do rodeos fit into American sports, in general? Are they rising? Fading?

If you bridle at every topic you don’t personally like, then maybe reporting isn’t for you after all. And that’s OK, too.

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Ask the Coach is updated regularly. Have a suggestion for a future column, contact Mary Ann Hogan.

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Last updated: Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 | 21:22:24