EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.comIs Ken Krayeske any less of a journalist than those who process the low-grade vomit of politicians, business leaders or police chiefs over the course of many years in the same job?The short answer, of course, is no.Let’s look at it another way. Suppose you’re a bowler. You have fun bowling. You’re pretty good. You join the pro bowlers tour and earn some money. Guess what? You’re a professional bowler.
For those mainstream journalists who still don’t get it, a slut – male or female – is an amateur. A whore is a pro.Clearly, the bar one must hurdle to become a so-called professional journalist is pretty low. I contend this is a good thing.Anyone and everyone should be able to stir the pot of democracy and enhance the public discourse. As I tell students, to be journalists, they must hang out with people. They must gather facts. They must have a focus. They must write simple declarative sentences. They must revise their writing.Ideally, this would be a meritocracy of sorts.Readers, viewers and listeners make the call on legitimacy by their choices of venues. Increasingly, they are looking for alternatives.Whereas citizens used to go to newspapers to fight corruption when the system failed them, now they must go elsewhere. Newspapers, tv and radio stations have shown they are not interested.Many citizens now go to blogs and other alternative media for their news.For those unfamiliar with Krayeske, he is the journalist and political activist who was arrested for taking photographs of Gov. Rell’s inaugural parade in Hartford last month.The cops and courts have closed ranks on the Krayeske case. Yeah, we circulated a flyer about this dangerous vegetarian / pacifist before the parade, but we knew it was Krayeske and we didn’t know it was Krayeske when he took those photos – er, “breached the parade route” by stepping off a curb and/ or he was riding his bike too fast near the parade. We forgot to give him a speeding ticket. We did remember to take his freedom for 12 or 13 hours until the inaugural festivities were over, but that was just a coincidence. We jacked his bond up to $75,000 and hassled him for wanting a lawyer, but that’s nobody’s fault.Should any citizen – even a journalist – be treated this way?Many members of the establishment press are not very concerned. Some are threatened by Krayeske.Krayeske went off the track. He had something greater than a one-dimensional life. Besides working for conventional dailies and weeklies, he wrote for High Times and managed the gubernatorial campaign for a Green Party candidate last fall. He has been busted for civil disobedience at an anti-war protest.He writes with a point of view and makes no attempt to disguise it.Mainstream journalists would never do that. Some hide behind a cloak of objectivity and actively support the status quo. The best among them try to be fair. Others take the tack: Let’s screw this crook in as fair a way as possible.As the historians Judith and William Serrin put it in the book, MUCKRAKING, The New Press, 2002: “Journalists wear disguises, and one of them is the disguise of objectivity … All good journalists have agendas. They wish to put the crooked sheriff in jail. They wish to unveil the patent medicine fraud. They wish to free the innocent man from jail.“Some journalists want their readers to get angry. They want to see wages go up and the death rates of babies go down. They want to see changes in a political judicial system that results in more minorities and the poor going to jail than to college. They wonder why some people are in jail while powerful people who commit crimes are untouchable.I got fired up about this column after I read a piece in The Connecticut Post by Ken Dixon. Dixon is a decent guy. He is basically a solid reporter. He really missed the boat, though, on the Krayeske case, providing some cover for those who would turn away from police and government misconduct.Krayeske, Dixon asserts, “should be happy that the Hartford police did not massage his noggin …“It appears this is something Dixon would like to have done himself. I gather Dixon is pissed off that Krayeske dared to mingle with reporters and ask a question of Gov. Rell during a campaign stop. “He crossed the line … ,” Dixon wrote. “This is a no-no and working reporters don’t like civilians – let alone opposing campaign managers – chiming in as if they were reporters too.“Oops, Mr. Dixon. I must diagnose you with a case of too much time in the Capitol Press Corps. So what if Joe The Hot Dog Vendor or Jane The Janitor have questions for the governor as well? The mainstream press doesn’t own this space. We all do.Worse than the noggin comment, Dixon also wrote: “[Krayeske’s] even tried to shame the Connecticut Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists into funding his little winter promo campaign ..“Forgive me, but here are a few facts: When cops violate the civil rights of citizens, said citizens tend to be charged with criminal offenses. The classic example is cops charging interfering after they beat someone.Krayeske was covering the parade and his photos have been published widely. Prosecutors are dragging out Krayeske’s case, refusing to look at witness statements exonerating Krayeske.There are very few capable and tough civil rights lawyers in Connecticut, and these lawyers cost money. At the national level, the Society of Professional Journalists does not have much of a problem supporting bloggers, videographers, freelancers or others outside the mainstream.Who’s naked now, Ken Dixon? Who’s flacking for whom?Why wouldn’t a state Society of Professional Journalists stand up against civil rights violations of anyone, whether they are mere citizens, journalists or hacks? Why wouldn’t a state Society of Professional Journalists respond to inquiries from someone whose civil rights have been violated?A good reporter would not need a travel budget to find shame in this matter.Andy Thibault, author of Law & Justice In Everyday Life and a private investigator, is an adjunct lecturer of English and a mentor in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University. He also serves as a consulting editor for the literary journal Connecticut Review.