Media Scrutiny Of The 'Unsavory' Past | Beaufort County Now | One of the toughest decisions an editor has to make is to decide how long an unsavory act or behavior should follow a person or an institution around in the news columns. | Media,segregation,Strom Thurmond,Robert Byrd,Ku Klux Klan,Civil Rights Act,Porsche,Hitler,Germany

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Media Scrutiny Of The 'Unsavory' Past

    Publisher's note: The author of this post is John Hood, who is a publisher for the Carolina Journal, John Hood Publisher.

    RALEIGH     One of the toughest decisions an editor has to make is to decide how long an unsavory act or behavior should follow a person or an institution around in the news columns.

    Should that indecent exposure arrest a person got in college for relieving himself on the frat house lawn be mentioned when that person decides to run for statewide office at age 45? Should that drunk driving arrest in high school be mentioned when a person gets named school superintendent 30 years later?

    The key to fairness in these matters is to be consistent. The media can't (or shouldn't) dredge up such facts for those they don't like, or with whom they disagree politically, while leaving them hidden for people they do like, or with whom they agree ideologically.

    But, guess what? That's not how it happens.

    The media took every opportunity to point out the Dixiecrat and pro-segregation lineage of Sen. Strom Thurmond, a Republican, but hardly ever mentioned that his Democratic colleague, Sen. Robert Byrd, had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan and was a ringleader in filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    In today's media, the rule seems to be that unsavory pasts will be attached forever in news stories to conservatives, but not for those on the left. Usually this inconsistency works to push the narrative of the left that the right is filled with unsavory characters who are, in a favorite phrase of theirs, "to the right of Attila the Hun."

    In a recent issue of The News & Observer, a history professor at UNC wrote an op-ed piece decrying that the N.C. Museum of Art did not have displayed prominently at its "Porsche By Design" exhibit the fact that Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche had once collaborated with the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler.

    He wrote that he was "shocked and saddened by the arid formalism motivating the show" and the "rank insensitivity to people and groups who historically suffered" because of things "some engineers" at Porsche may have done in Germany from 1933 to 1945.

    And he suggested that a prominent display documenting Porsche's actions during Hitler's reign, and a few lectures on the same, were the least the museum should have done.

    The curators at the museum were dealing with the very same question I began this column with: At what point does an unsavory past become irrelevant to the present? Should Bayer Aspirin also be tagged to the Nazis on every mention, as well? Or Audi (Auto-Union in Nazi days)?

    Closer to home, should one feel the need to reference The News & Observer's shameful role during North Carolina's segregated and racist past?

    Fairness and consistency are difficult in such matters. I guess that's why they pay editors the big bucks.


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