This is a advice column for Journalism students.
I just found out I am covering the rodeo this summer. It is
a huge deal here ..., lasting a few weeks. I hate bulls, bull riding, steer
wrestling, all the events that to me just reek of animal cruelty. Can I refuse
the assignment? How should I deal with a reporting project that I think is
barbaric, with values that make me cringe? – No Bull, Please
Dear No Bull:
Please do not make the mistake this early in your career
of refusing to cover a story because you think the subject is “barbaric.”
This has nothing to do with rodeos. It has everything to do with you.
If you were asked to cover a KKK rally, would you not go because you thought
the KKK immoral?
If you were asked to cover an execution, would you refuse because you
didn’t agree with capital punishment?
A reporter’s job is to deal with the community fairly, accurately,
contextually – without reservation or bias.
Your first obligation is to the truth, just as a doctor’s first obligation
is to heal, or a judge's is to justice. That's why doctors treat enemy
soldiers and judges rule in ways that aren’t always in line with their
Some people think rodeos are cruel. But rodeo fans don’t think that at
You are being asked to cover a rodeo – to discover the who, what and why
of the folks who go there and love it. To give people who are not there a sense
of what it is like to be there. Who goes to rodeos? Men, women, white people,
people of different races? What do they like about it? What role does it play in
their community? Where do rodeos fit into American sports, in general? Are they
If you bridle at every topic you don’t personally like, then maybe
reporting isn’t for you after all. And that’s OK, too.
For the most part I agree with the journalism "coach". If you are assigned a story you cover it. Sometimes you cover stories that you don't agree with, it comes with the territory. For example I wrote a story on Black republicans. I had to attend a couple of their meetings and try not to roll my eyes or gag. With that said there is NO WAY in HELL I would cover a KKK meetings. Most likely they would never been a Black reporter to cover a KKK meeting but if any editor had ideas, I wouldn't go. NEVER. I don't care if it costs me my job. Rodeos I'll cover. Not a problem.