Is it just me, or . . . ?

By Terry Poulton, editor

Author bio information is from the time of article submission and may not be current.

FineLine: The Newsletter On Journalism Ethics, vol. 3, no. 7 (July/August 1991), p. 8.

This case was produced for FineLine, a publication of Billy Goat Strut Publishing, 600 East Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. Reprinted with the permission of Billy Goat Strut Publishing. This case may be reproduced for classroom and research purposes. Publication of this case in electronic or printed form requires written permission from the publisher and Indiana University. An exception is granted for use in readers designed for specific academic courses.


  • Have the press pit bulls who’ve been busily chomping on Clarence Thomas’s other peccadilloes missed a whopper?

Hasn’t the Supreme Court nominee been playing hide-the-wife under our oblivious noses? Or aren’t smiling spouses  usually plopped smack in the middle of photo ops of this magnitude?

Mrs. T. (otherwise known as federal Labor Department equal pay opponent Virginia Lamp) has turned up in news-magazines. But she’s apparently video shy (at least on my TV). And pix in most major dailies have featured Thomas’s mom, his maligned sister and even the nuns who influenced him. But no better half.

So why aren’t press pundits opining about whether the judge is playing down his interracial marriage on White House orders, or doing it on his own?

Could the media silence on this one really be mere inattention? Or is it instead an attempt to take the high road by not appearing to attack Thomas for having a white wife?

And wouldn’t that be ethical sophistry of the stupidest sort?

  • Were British economic summit flacks just showing what they learned from Desert Storm about the care and feeding of the media?

For the first time in 17 years, according to The New York Times, reporters were barred from covering the comings and goings of the leaders and their spouses. Media relations director Peter Rose told Maureen Dowd that “reporters would make the events too crowded when they could just as well watch it on television.”

So will we soon be down to just one Orwellian camera serving as our entire press corps?

  • Are the editorial writers at The Wall Street Journal orbiting even farther than usual from our solar system?

In a recent diatribe, they implied that Ted Kennedy actually murdered Mary Jo Kopechne. “If you believe this petty act [the nixing of Carol Iannone from the National Council on the Humanities] had anything to do with academic resumes, you probably also believe the Senator made a wrong turn on Chappaquiddick Island.”

  • Have the feature writers at Time become a little too obsessed with crime these days? Not content with specifying the contents of a typical “rape kit,” they followed up by asking a mob murderer, “Do you want to pass along any tricks of the trade?”

Just wondering . . .