The astounding journalism in Orlando

There were two interviews in the media on Tuesday which were beyond compelling and deserve the attention in this space.

First was Anderson Cooper’s grilling of Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general who defended Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Yesterday, Bondi said the state will “go after” anyone who attacks the LGBT community in Florida.

“I talked to a lot of gay and lesbian people here yesterday who are not fans of yours and said that they thought you were being a hypocrite, that you for years have fought—you’ve basically gone after gay people, said that in court that gay people simply by fighting for marriage equality were trying to do harm to the people of Florida,” Cooper said.

How could she be a champion of helping gay and lesbian victims and their families from Sunday morning’s shootings while also opposing their freedom to marry last year, he wondered. He called it a “sick irony” that Bondi was trying to get families information about their hospitalized loves ones after denying that right to same-sex partners previously.

I can’t say for certain that Cooper crossed the line, but he at least approached it. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Some of the finest journalism happens right at the line.

But I also don’t know exactly where the line is on an interview like this during a story like this. So I’ll leave it to you to help sort it through.

I have no such conflict in listening to NPR host Ari Shapiro’s unbelievable interview with the family of a young woman — the youngest victim — who was killed after she escaped from the club, only to realize her friend and cousin were still in side. So she went back in and died there.

If there was ever a definition of compelling journalism and storytelling under the most difficult of conditions, this is it.

  1. Listen Philadelphia Teen Was Youngest Victim In Orlando Nightclub Attack

    June 14, 2016

Shapiro, and his NPR team, have been committing astounding acts of journalism . That includes the story of Eddie Meltzer, a shooting survivor who is acting as translator for many of the Puerto Rican families of victims.

  • Matt
    • I’m trying to detect whether there’s the suggestion in this that the anti same-sex marriage debate created the climate for the killing of 50 people. I understand that a lot of people might see it that way but I think he should have just said it .

      I also found the moment when he corrected her when she said today was about the loss of human life…pointing out that it was about the loss of gay/lesbians was cringeworthy. I’m not sure everyone in the club was gay.

      • Mike Worcester

        //I’m not sure everyone in the club was gay

        I wonder if the presumption has been that since it was a gay club, the victims were all gay. Of course we cannot say that with certainty but the casual reader might make that leap.

        • Lots of straight people go to gay clubs.

          • Gordon near Two Harbors

            Very true. Many of us straight folks have friends, family members, and co-workers who are gay, and we socialize together.

          • Mike Worcester

            I do get that (done it myself). I also do see though a segment of the population which does find that concept to be odd for sure. Right or wrong, the mentality does exist. That’s all I was driving at. 🙂

        • Kassie

          Not everyone there was gay. There was at least one male victim there with his girlfriend and one woman was there with her gay son.

      • Gordon near Two Harbors

        The biggest factor creating an anti-gay climate in this country is the so-called “Christian” Right. The ancient lies and superstitions they spew are highly selective toward minorities–an easy target, since they typically don’t have the numbers to defend themselves–and the passages relating to all the other “deadly sins” out there tend to be watered-down or ignored.

        My guess is that, if this type of social agitation and aggression continues, over time, church leaders and their congregations are going to increasingly be targeted for violence, because as they say, what goes around, comes around.

        • Angry Jonny

          I think if a person takes the nature+nurture theory and operationalizes it as a social construct, there is an observable effect on how a given society treats their GLBTQ citizens. If nature is represented by climate, economics, history, political identity, and nurture is understood as development of laws and policies, they is probably a scale of measurement that could predict the likelihood of violence towards GLBTQs.

    • Rob

      It happens not infrequently.

  • Mike Worcester

    I will say I have been impressed by the patience of many — though certainly not all — of the news outlets as the facts of the incident have unfolded. Certainly there have been mis-steps, which one would expect in a messy and fluid situation like this. Is this a reflection of how the local officials have handled the case?

  • MacGrandGradMN

    Hi Bob,

    I am an MPR member. I am also a gay man, and so is Anderson Cooper.

    To think that anyone is ever completely impartial would be kidding themselves, which is why I am commenting here. I will not rule out your right to critique him. I will, however, call out the ridiculous need to question Cooper’s actions when journalists have instead chosen to highlight the empty, insensitive responses of those who (for example) are vying for our country’s highest office, or who are already elected officials in Florida. In the case of Bondi, she might have simply “defended the state constitution,” but Cooper’s mentioning that LGBTQ Floridians don’t take her statement seriously was fair.

    There are also bigger issues here. When someone like U.S. Senator (from Florida!) Marco Rubio, a former Republican candidate for president, claims that shootings like this happen around the world with it simply being “Orlando’s turn,” it’s hard for me to worry about the supposed lack of impartiality of one rather prominent, LGBTQ journalist. There’s a far greater impartiality we as citizens (and those working as journalists) should worry about. Perhaps we as citizens of the United States should worry about public and elected officials being constantly let off the hook for making comments like that by the journalists who claim to be impartial.

    Cooper in this clip is trying to implicitly and explicitly point out the hypocrisy of public officials, who, after months and/or years of being anti-LGBTQ, are suddenly trying to ignore the fact that

    1. the shooting occurred at a gay club
    2. the monster of a human who murdered so many people clearly was mentally disturbed and deeply bigoted against LGBTQ individuals (and might even have been self-hating due to his own sexuality)
    3. nobody should have to worry about leaving their homes knowing that gunfire will claim their innocent lives

    So yes, claiming that he crossed a line is hard to swallow. He identifies as gay; wouldn’t you be at all distraught as a public LGBTQ figure after such an event, when the majority of the victims were LGBTQ, also? Not to mention, commenting below that perhaps “not all victims were gay” is a valid reason is shameful.

    He certainly was not putting himself before his job in any of these interviews concerning the Pulse shootings; he was maintaining his integrity as a journalist to the extent any human being reporting on such a tragedy could.

    When so many, including myself, could not help but be tearful — listening to him choke up as he read the names of the identified victims — I cannot believe this is the question that is being asked. To doubt his skill as a journalist is saddening.

    Furthermore, for him to simply convey to his audience in his overall coverage that there is human dignity in grieving, all while pressing public officials in charge of the legal framework in Florida, is right on point.

    That is why I and (I am sure many) other LGBTQ individuals appreciate him grilling Pam Bondi on this issue due to her past record. I (and probably many others) will not allow public officials, who deny (or have denied in recent memory) our human rights to live freely and openly, to use this event for their own political agenda or be shielded from their past hypocrisies.

    • the very last journalist whose skill I would question would be Anderson Cooper. Which is why I didn’t.

    • Jack

      Very well put. Thank you.

    • Jeff

      Great points, I think we need to be more honest about biases we all have and the backgrounds we come from, especially for those who are reporting the news. I’d much rather have a reporter/anchor explain who they are, what they believe and their politics and THEN make an effort to be less biased when covering stores so at least we know their potential biases before we observe their work, so we have the full picture and can come to an informed conclusion when we consume media. It would also put a spotlight on certain news organizations (i.e. Fox or MSNBC) to show they have a large majority of left leaning or right leaning individuals operating within their organization, those organizations would have to reflect upon that reality and make an effort to not let that bias influence their product. Or in some cases, they may wear that bias as a badge of honor but at least the people could see in quantitative values the bias that may exist within any given news organization.

  • Rob

    I don’t see anything controversial about calling out elected officials on their hypocrisy or lack of humanity.

  • jon

    Can a gay journalists cover the Orlando shooting?
    Can a Latino Judge preside over a Trump U. case?
    Can an evangelical christian be a county clerk?
    Can an evangelical christian be a pizzeria owner?
    Can a Jehovah’s witness work at a blood drive?
    Can a Christian Scientists be a Doctor?
    Can a Muslim work as a bartender?
    Can a Jew run a cheese burger joint?

    Can we separate our professional and personal identities long enough to do our jobs? and even if we think we can, can we convince others that we are capable of it?

    • Of course. But why separate professional and personal identities?

      • jon

        I have no idea why any one would want to do that.

        Personally I like who I am (which by all external accounts is a “pedantic ass”). I’m that way at work, in my personal life, and even sometimes on internet comments.

        But I guess some people were born or opted into situations/beliefs that are far more constraining, being an ass of any sort is pretty much universally accepted in within the US, probably doesn’t hurt that I’m white either.

  • sue

    Not necessarily related to this interview with Anderson Cooper but Isn’t Pam Bondi also been in the news for dropping her investigation of Trump University after she received money from Trump?