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
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
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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