Moral cubismWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
As I settle into middle age, I like to think the Rubik’s Cube that is my life requires far less twists and turns to maintain color-coded equilibrium than it did 10 or 20 years ago. But there are still moments when someone will reach in and jumble the matching rows, requiring me to either realign the colors or learn from and accept the new combination.
I make my living by putting my name, face and opinions on 150,000 newspapers and a half-dozen radio shows each week, so I have relatively thick skin; I’ve been called every name my friends, enemies (I have six, although that number will be reduced to four any day now) and casual observers can conjure. At this stage, I mostly yawn and ignore the baser and more ignorant comments.
I especially ignore slings and arrows thrown my way by anonymous e-mailers, phone callers, letter writers and blog/message board posters. When some penny-ante mouth-breather calls me “Michael Merphy” and inaccurately rails about something I said, or some dumber-than-a-bag-of-hammers blogger with the genital gravitas of a G.I. Joe doll attacks me rather than my opinions, I usually shrug and let my voodoo priestess dole out karmic retribution.
A week or so ago, however, an anonymous e-mail showed up that attacked and libeled a number of my friends and co-workers with terrible accusations and bitter ramblings laced with acrimony.
I would normally delete such a message without answering, but I am fiercely loyal and protective of my staff and my friends, so I fired off a response with little thought but lots of f-bomb bile.
I forgot about it almost immediately. But the anonymous slanderer took my rash response and sent it to several people connected with Toledo Free Press, in an attempt to embarrass the newspaper and harm its relationships.
This puts me in the awkward position of having to be contrite for something that, while admittedly unprofessional and low-road, I am not sorry for. I am sorry other people were involved and that those people were muddied by my rancor, but my original invitation to the anonymous e-mailer stands. Still, I felt the Rubik’s Cube twist and knew I needed to be more discerning in future responses, as it is not fair that my occasionally gutter-level disposition causes this company pain.
I’ve long since given up on any delusions of being mistaken for Mr. Manners; I never went to charm school. I’m street; I believe in direct communication, in calling a spade a spade, and while I’ll never earn a degree from the University of Soft and Subtle, I’ve long since made peace with who I am.
The other twist to my Rubik’s color code came from Brian Schwartz, spokesperson for Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. When Brian was on one side of a door at Government Center trying to push out members of the media from WSPD, I was one of the loudest and harshest critics of his actions. The mayor and WSPD have yet to patch up their differences, and in addition to a weekly Thursday appearance on Brian Wilson’s afternoon show, I fill-in for vacationing hosts when Maggie Thurber, Bruce Beatty, 67 Clear Channel hosts from across the country and the plastic bird that repeatedly dips its beak in water are unavailable.
Schwartz called and challenged my participation with WSPD on the grounds that I defend their First Amendment rights but remain silent as they, in his words, deny his First Amendment rights by keeping him and the mayor off their shows. Schwartz challenged me to write my way through the situation to see if I saw his point.
My conclusion is that while a public official has no right to block anyone from a public press conference if they are non-disruptive, a radio talk show has no obligation to give its air space to anyone; there’s no Constitutionally guaranteed access to five minutes on WSPD or any other radio station, or TV station, or newspaper. And there never should be, though an argument about the so-called Fairness Doctrine” will have to wait for another day.
That won’t seem fair to Schwartz, but if he can separate his emotion from the facts, he’ll know it’s true.
Still, his challenge forced the color cubes of my intellect to click and readjust, and that contributes to my continued growth. I appreciate Schwartz taking the high road, as opposed to anonymous troublemakers who dwell in the swampy ick and uck of intellectual cowardice. I won’t be dragged into that ick and uck again; that person and his kind can go to the depths of uck themselves.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.