Sunday, July 12, 2009

Writers Respect One Another

As a semi-responsible journalist, I followed up my first person account of Buzz Bissinger's end-of -presentation Snowden statement with a call to the speaker himself. I had accurately recounted my time at the event and I had accurately recounted the statement itself. But I wanted to get any backstory and clarification on Mr. B's experience. We had a pleasant conversation.

Mr. Bissinger told me that the statement was glib, and in jest. Knowing his style, I had felt so at the time. Mr B told me that he retracted his statement soon after, and should not have said it. He wishes no harm to anyone. To clarify, as his statement was worded, the death of Mr. Snowden might well have come from natural causes at an advanced age. So violence is not a component to be addressed.

But Mr. Bissinger was clear that he regrets the statement and I believe him. Toothpaste and tubes being what they are, and speaking as a man who licked varnish on a live television show once, I know the depth of his regret. He added that his entire presentation was peppered with humor and its attendant exaggeration. I get that too. My work, including my extensive reporting on Mr. Snowden's activities in West Virginia and the Hill have been laced with humor. That, and the law regarding public figures keep me out of court. And although I have never wished him ill in print, in our one extensive meeting, I did suggest that he sell his properties in 19118 and leave.

So the lesson here is clear. Context and style. They count. But my Mom used to say something about words said in jest, and she ought to know about such things, because she called me a bastard almost every day. So to those who soiled themselves following a silly comment, lighten up. And next year get the guy who writes the "Thomas the Train" books.

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