FILE – In this June 25, 2018, file photo Charles Barkley arrives for the NBA Awards at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. Barkley was honored in Philadelphia when he received the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Award at Temple University on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Charles Barkley made a bad joke aimed at a female reporter.
The female reporter broke the sacred rule of “off the record” to report the bad joke aimed at her.
The internet tries to cancel Charles Barkley.
That’s the latest cultural controversy in a nutshell.
There are almost no times I will beak an OTR “agreement” but this is not OK. And it was all because he came in talking about how he loves Deval Patrick and once someone from Pete‘s campaign came around he said he loved Pete and I reminded him he previously said he was a Deval fan
— Alexi McCammond (@alexi) November 20, 2019
There is so much going on here and not much of it has to do with Barkley’s stance on domestic violence. Charles Barkley is filthy rich. Charles Barkley is famous. Charles Barkley lives in a world where he can say whatever stupid thing he wants and all the people around him will laugh and assure him that he is the most fascinating person in the world because that is what people do around celebrities.
But let’s be clear – Charles Barkley doesn’t beat women. Everyone knows this. He was making what he clearly thought was a joke. Let us continue to be clear – Barkley was way out of line. He’s actually a pretty funny guy and he’s well known for not giving two rips what the media says about him. It’s endearing. Still, it was one of those jokes that old men spew thinking they’re being witty that instead just make them look stupid. Charles Barkley made a bad joke. Well, let’s just be honest…it was just plain rude.
There’s another angle here in this pointless story, and that’s that the intrepid reporter who snitched and broke a hard and fast rule of journalism – you don’t report things said off the record. McCammond justifies her breach of professional trust by saying the “joke” was just too offensive to be kept quiet. Given that this is a case of rudeness and not aggressiveness, it feels like there is some fine print between the lines and we should probably read it.
The off-the-record rule of journalism is vital, because it engenders a vital trust between the press and their subjects. It is the kind of trust you need to get the good stories, and it is the kind of trust you need to be able to continue to get good stories. The best information comes in social settings. People will give you a lot of information (even if they don’t particularly like you) if they know you follow the rules of your profession. Everyone wants to “confess”. Everyone. The key is to be the person a subject feels comfortable confessing to, and the way to do that is to assure your subject that your social time is off the record. The only rule more important is the rule of protecting your sources, but both are aimed at making sure you as a journalist can be trusted.
The type of woman that would violate one of the most sacred rules of journalism over an act of rudeness is perhaps the type of woman who is willing to violate other social compacts. Barkley’s rude comment was insane if you isolate it, but it sounds like the comment of a man who was dealing with an annoying reporter all night long and was just kind of sick of her schtick. She smugly reminded him he had declared he loved Deval Patrick after he said he loved Pete Buttigieg (insert eye roll emoji here) as if a voter couldn’t be excited about two candidates at the same time. Given McCammond’s youth, it isn’t hard to imagine she’d been helpfully “reminding” him about his inconsistent adorations at other points during the night. The millennial generation views journalism as “gotcha fishing”. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it is indeed as annoying as hell.
McCammond’s youth does not allow her to see around the corners yet. She doesn’t understand that there is a world in which you can actually hear dumb things from dumb people and even if they’re offensive you can just walk away and go on with your life just fine. She still lives in a world where she hears every day that men and women are exactly the same and she hasn’t had enough years yet to know that they are very, very different. That type of knowledge isn’t allowed to be spoken out loud in certain circles, so these days it’s only something you can learn from experience. McCammond doesn’t have enough maturity or experience to know that if a woman really wants to be the same as a man (being equal is something different) then she has to be able to take it like a man and that means understanding the language of men, particularly men in professional sports.
I’ve already written many more words than this silly kerfuffle deserves. Hopefully, this will just be eaten up by the news cycle because it really does not deserve much more attention than it’s getting today, and neither does this “journalist” who breached one of our most sacred rules.
Charles Barkley was rude as all hell and should have apologized.
Alexi McCammond is too soft for the job she’s trying to do and needs to apologize for violating an important professional rule.