August 27, 2008
Some people have to be told
The editor-at-large of newspaper industry trade publication Editor & Publisher upbraids reporters at the political conventions for failing to stand when the National Anthem is played at the start of each night's session. Mark Fitzgerald writes:
I've only covered a couple of conventions from the inside of the hall, but inevitably, the vast majority of reporters in the press boxes remained seated as the national anthem is played. I cringed every time I saw this dopey tradition followed. I can't be sure, but it seemed to me the few journalists standing were not Americans, but visitors showing respect to their host's anthem. [....]I'm not entirely sure what accounts for this rude behavior, this pretense that being a journalist somehow exempts us from acting as Americans when for this brief ritual.
I don't believe for a minute that it reflects any lack of patriotism in the press. Instead, it's likely yet another manifestation of pack journalism, the herd instinct that can transform otherwise independent, even prickly, reporters into lemmings. They seem to be obedient to some unspoken, and wholly unexamined, code of conduct.
What they may not realize is that slouching in their seats and texting during the national anthem is not some demonstration of singular devotion to dispassionate reporting -- but just plain boorishness.
While I commend Mr. Fitzgerald for his etiquette lesson, I am a bit surprised that he failed to mention the fact that it makes the press look, well, unpatriotic. He dismisses this possible explanation for their behavior without discussion, but many members of the public are not so certain. The elephant in the room is the overwhelming public distrust of the press as biased against conservatives. Handing ammunition to those who would paint you as unpatriotic is just plain dumb.
Hat tip: David Paulin