Coddling George

Journalism 101

Perhaps the most basic lesson any journalist must learn is that if you are going to smear someone's good name in public, you should at least call them and offer them the opportunity to defend themselves. This opportunity certainly would have been appreciated before I personally was smeared as a homophobe in the pages of The Texas Triangle.

The Triangle, the state's leading source of news on gay issues, printed a story on Sept. 10 reporting that Paul Odekirk, a central figure in the recent KOOP radio controversies, was resigning from his show because of alleged anti-gay harrassment he had received. Odekirk was quoted as saying, "Too many lies have been spread about me already with the help of Lee Nichols and the Chronicle."

That Odekirk would say this doesn't bother me. As has been thoroughly documented in this column and elsewhere, Odekirk and his allies are either delusional or unrepentant liars who use accusations of homophobia as a divisive tactic to vilify their enemies and divert attention from KOOP's real issues. I would expect nothing less from him.

But I do expect better from the Triangle. Had somebody from that paper (the story has no byline) bothered to call me, I could have given them a different take on Odekirk -- I could have pointed out how many of his opponents are themselves gay or how Odekirk has repeatedly made these accusations against me without providing one shred of evidence of homophobia on my part.

I also could have defended myself as an ardent supporter of gay rights. Forgive me if this sounds like a cliché, but some of my best friends are gay -- and rarely a day goes by that I don't worry that one of them will have their children taken away, be denied housing or a job, or worst of all, become the next Matthew Shepard.

(When I called Triangle publisher Todd Cunningham to ask why I wasn't offered the opportunity to respond, he said that he couldn't remember the article in question, nor could he remember who authored it "off the top of my head." I requested that he ask the author to give me a call. At press time, I had not received one.)

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