Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Small-town columnist writes about harassment but says it's puny 'compared to what national reporters endure'

Teri Carter
We reported yesterday about the wave of contemplative pieces the Annapolis newspaper shooting inspired from journalists all over the country, but this op-ed today in the Lexington Herald-Leader is worth sharing because it shows the risk that journalists can face when they write about controversial subjects at a polarized time in America.

Teri Carter, a columnist for The Anderson News, a Landmark Community Newspapers weekly in Lawrenceburg, Ky., writes often about state and national politics, and often criticizes President Trump, who carried the county big. (Editor Ben Carlson is not on the same page with her politically but has defended her publicly.) In her latest piece, she shares a few incidents, starting with one at a veterinarian's office right after she had her 14-year-old dog put to sleep and a man in line behind her overheard her name:
He said with disgust, “I know you. Woman from the paper.” He paused and leaned in. “Because I read, you know. I re-e-ead the paper.” I turned and smiled and, not knowing what to say, I clumsily thanked him. But he kept on.
This is what it’s like to write about politics in the Age of Trump. Public confrontations. Threatening emails. Social media attacks. And I am the smallest of small potatoes. Stories like mine are a puny little pinprick compared to what national reporters endure. Imagine the president denigrating any other American job — your job, maybe — the way he does journalism: “Factory workers are very dishonest people! Farmers are #FakeFarmers, not nice! So funny to watch teachers and nurses, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with!”
Would you, would any of us, stand for this?”
Carter's experiences with harassment have given her a somewhat jaundiced view of the current debate over public civility toward the president's administration: "Having spent a good two years drowning in this Trumpian dystopia, you’ll have to forgive me if I can’t get too het up about calls for civility when the White House press secretary is quietly and politely asked to leave a white-tablecloth restaurant. Thoughts and prayers come to mind." And she relates the latest incident, at a grocery:
I turned a corner and a strange man, no cart and no basket in hand, walked up and grabbed my cart. “Hey there,” he said, standing too close. “You that lady writes for the paper?”
I stood tall as I could. I looked him in the eye. “I am,” I said. He was wearing a frayed baseball hat, an open flannel shirt. Lips pursed, he looked my body up and down like he was getting ready to catcall. “Well,” he finally said, letting go of my cart. “Alright then.”
When I got home, I found my husband out mowing the grass. “Were you scared?” he asked, cutting the engine. “Did he say anything else?” And I said “No it’s fine, I’m fine. I’m used to it. It was creepy, he was just mad, it felt weird.” I said all the things I always say, because I hate it when my husband worries. And then I went back inside to get Easter dinner going for my family, hands shaking.

No comments: