Quote the knucklehead.
If that's not made clear in modern-day Journalism 101, it should be.
Often, your GetReligionistas will post a critique of a one-sided news story that fails to give an adequate voice to one side. Inevitably, somebody who thinks the side that wasn't represented is stupid or bigoted or racist will object and suggest the other side doesn't deserve to be quoted.
I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but that's not journalism. It's advocacy. Unfortunately, depending on the subject, there's a lot of mixing of those two (journalism and advocacy) in many media reports these days.
So my expectations for fair, impartial coverage wasn't sky-high when I came across a Minneapolis Star-Tribune story on a small-town business owner putting up a "Muslims Get Out" sign.
The Star-Tribune team surprised me, though, with an evenhanded, fact-based approach:
A “Muslims Get Out” sign in front of a small-town dining spot in southern Minnesota will remain, the owner said Tuesday, despite the business being targeted by what he said was hate-inspired vandalism.
Dan Ruedinger said he put up the message this week in front of Treats Family Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor in Lonsdale soon after a stabbing rampage inside a St. Cloud mall over the weekend that the FBI is investigating as a possible act of terrorism.
Ruedinger said he’s “had enough” and is “standing up” to all the violence that extremists have inspired around the world.
Keep reading, and the Star-Tribune notes that a meeting between Ruedinger and a Council on American-Islamic Relations official did not go well. The newspaper gives the CAIR official an opportunity to voice his objections and concerns to the sign and also quotes other people in town who have a problem with the sign.
But most impressively, the story allows the business owner to make his case — free of smirking or wisecracking on the paper's part:
Ruedinger said he didn’t mean to offend anyone with his sign. “Our problem isn’t with the entire Muslim population,” he said after meeting with Hussein. “It’s with the extremists and the nut jobs.”
He said his message is not that he is turning away Muslims or anyone else as patrons.
“Anyone who wants to come in here can,” he said. “No matter their ethnicity or race, if they come in here and be nice, I don’t care what their race is.”
Now, if a person really doesn't intend to offend anyone and really doesn't have a problem with the entire Muslim population, then he doesn't put up a sign with a blanket message such as "Muslims Get Out." Right?
But readers can come to that conclusion on their own. It's not the newspaper's call to make.
The Star-Tribune did its job: It quoted the knucklehead.