Be careful when mixing liquor with politics
John Boyle | AC-T | Sep 22, 2012
“Journalist” and “media” sure have loose meanings these days — Asheville City Councilman, local counselor and Scrutiny Hooligans blogger Gordon Smith attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on a media pass and proceeded to — let me word this gently — make a bit of a spectacle of himself.
He apparently snuck in a Dasani water bottle filled with a white liquor with a remarkably pungent aroma and proceeded to offer it around to folks in the press area.
This drew some odd looks from news organizations’ actual journalists. Smith also raised eyebrows by clapping enthusiastically during a speech, clearly violating the “no cheering in the press box” rule.
Hey, some may argue that he’s just doing what journalists have done for ages — drinking and being biased. Or maybe he felt the need to be a little oiled up for Obama’s speech. Who knows, maybe he just wanted to publicize the mountain moonshine tradition.
While it may be best to approach all politicians’ orations with a buzz on, allow me to get a tad sanctimonious for a second. Those of us who actually try to be fair and portray events accurately — and stay sober while doing so — take umbrage at someone calling themselves a “media” representative and then swigging moonshine at an event they’re allegedly “covering.”
Smith told me via email that he makes no effort to hide his bias, or to call himself a “journalist.” He got in on a “media” pass, he said. As far as the white liquor, he was pretty open about it.
“Neither journalists nor counselors are required to be teetotalers, and the other journalists who enjoyed the beverage in question at the convention can attest to that,” Smith said via email. “I could write about all of them, but that would be delving into their personal lives in a way that doesn’t suit me.”
“If you’d like to learn about some of my other experiences at the convention, whether it was meeting with Democratic municipal officials, watching the national media get tipsy at the Politico Lounge, or attending hours of caucus meetings, please feel free to contact me,” he went on. “It was quite an experience, one I’ll never forget.”
Side notes: How does a “media” person with the word “hooligans” in their organization’s title get past Secret Service security checks? Is security no longer concerned about liquids?
Anyway, people like his approach, Smith insists.
“I wear my bias on my sleeve, and the product is something that folks seem to like,” Smith said. “There was no mistaking that I was there as a friendly presence.”
I’m working on a column for Sunday about some of the recent uproar over candidates’ wording (Obama and his “you didn’t bulid that,” Romney’s 47 percent brouhaha), and I’m mentioning the lawyer in the evidence room case suing “the office of district attorney” instead of Ron Moore, and the case getting tossed.
Those pesky words can be tricky, you know.
I was intrigued that you got into the DNC as a “journalist” and then proceeded to sneak in a Dasani bottle full of moonshine and offer it around, not to mention some flagrant cheering in the press box.
Needless to say, we have enough challenges as journalists without blogger/counselors behaving this way. I’d like to get some comment from you on this, today if at all possible. Some questions:
– Do you consider yourself a “journalist?’
– Why did you feel it was appropriate to bring moonshine to the DNC?
– Why were you cheering in the press box?
Thanks, John, for reaching out.
I’m surprised at your perspective, and I’ll do my best to respond to your questions.
I’ve been blogging at Scrutiny Hooligans for over eight years, and the Democratic National Convention Committee offered bloggers the opportunity to get media passes. I applied and was accepted along with a colleague. My passes read “Media”, not “journalist”. We had a great time. Your colleagues, the folks who invited me to join them in the Gannett press box, Jon Ostendorff and Casey Blake, referred to me as an “advocacy journalist”, which I think is pretty generous. I referred to myself as a blogger. I asked to join them in their section for part of the convention, and they graciously invited me to do so. I spent some of all three convention days with them.
I am someone who records his thoughts, experiences and perspective across a number of online media platforms. I’ve been doing it for years. In addition to blogging at Scrutiny Hooligans, I also tweeted, Facebooked, and Instagrammed my experience at the convention in an effort to share it with the people of western North Carolina. I wear my bias on my sleeve, and the product is something that folks seem to like. There was no mistaking that I was there as a friendly presence.
As to “cheering” in the press box. That’s incorrect. At one point on the first or second day of the convention, I forgot where I was and began clapping in response to a speech being given. I got about two claps out before it dawned on me that the behavior wasn’t appropriate for the section I was in, and I slow-clapped my way down. It was funny and embarrassing in a Seinfeldesque sort of way. I then tweeted about it to explain that I’d learned a lesson and to let folks cringe at my embarrassment!
I did plenty of cheering at other times, in other areas. I was inspired and deeply moved by many of the speeches, especially Bill Clinton’s. Gabby Giffords’ recitation of the pledge of allegiance had me on my feet applauding as well. It was a great event that reflected some of the best things about our nation – definitely worth cheering about. I’m also a generally enthusiastic person. I cheered for you when you wrote that “Moffitt Ruling Like a King” article!
The stark contrast between the enthusiasm of the delegates and the focus of the paid media was one of the hallmarks of the entire experience for me. I appreciated Jon and Casey allowing me to join them. Never did I imagine that doing so would earn me a negative place in one of your columns. Another lesson learned.
Neither journalists nor counselors are required to be teetotalers, and the other journalists who enjoyed the beverage in questions at the convention can attest to that. I could write about all of them, but that would be delving into their personal lives in a way that doesn’t suit me.
If you’d like to learn about some of my other experiences at the Convention, whether it was meeting with Democratic Municipal Officials, watching the national media get tipsy at the Politico Lounge, or attending hours of caucus meetings, please feel free to contact me. It was quite an experience, one I’ll never forget.
I hope this is helpful,