The revealing case of Rob Parker

Rob Parker, the sports writer who asked for a buyout from the Detroit News after being demoted for asking a pretty stupid question of the Detroit Lions head football coach — he asked Rod Marinelli (whose son-in-law was his defensive coördinator), “Do you wish your daughter would have married a better defensive coördinator?” — is defending his “style” of journalism.

“I went to Columbia Journalism School,” Parker said. “And I can still remember the day I got called into the office and my professor … thought I was a good reporter but she wanted more out of me. You know what she told me? And I’ll never forget these words. She said. ‘Robert, I want you to stick the knife in, turn it and draw blood. That is the way you have to be a reporter. You’ve got to get the information, you’ve got to go after it. You can’t be soft on it.’ And that’s my approach, and that’s the only way I know how to do that job. I believe there’s still a place out there for a reporter like me, a journalist like me, and that’s where I stand.”

Well, well. The problem here is that I believe Mr. Parker, and it is the shame of academic journalism that this is what we’re teaching young people about the craft. This is highly reflective of the assumptions of professional journalism, that we’re granted access by our clout and that the pursuit of “truth” justifies any means. “Stick the knife in?” This makes me sick. As if Rod Marinelli (or anybody) deserves such treatment.

Folks, here’s the real problem with this. The public sees it for what it is, an arrogant bunch of spoiled children who think they can get away with anything they want. The public — the people formerly known as the audience — are running from it, and yet we have one of its practitioners spouting this crap as if it’s some sort of high calling.

Ground control to Rob Parker: Get off your pedestal!

The decline in trust in the professional press began after it had reached the holy zenith of its raison d’être, namely the resignation of a sitting U.S. President over the Watergate scandal. This became every young journalist’s vision of the craft — notches on some cosmic gun belt, the means be damned.

Only nobody asked people if this is what we expect from the press.

So we grew professors who speak of knife twisting as the path to the Holy Grail and students, like Mr. Parker, who took those words literally and went on to make a fool of himself on the national stage.

Aren’t we all proud?


  1. Drew Robertson says

    Rod Marinelli? What if a school board hired one of its member’s sons as a school bus driver. But he was a known drunk. And he ran the bus over a cliff with multiple fatalities. Shouldn’t someone stick the knife in the school board? That’s what happened to the Lions this year. And by the way Hank Paulson? He did same. No respect due. Dick Fuld? Same. Bernie Madoff? Same.

    Question Authority.

  2. I guess my response, Drew, would be that to everything’s a season. There may be a time for knifing, I suppose, but this wasn’t one of them, and I certainly don’t think it should be taught as the standard. It’s not a “style” but a tactic, perhaps.

    BTW, I grew up in Grand Rapids and worshipped the Lions. Doak Walker, Bobby Layne, Les Bingaman, Joe Schmidt. Yale Lary, Nighttrain Lane, Lem Barney. These were my childhood heroes. So it grieves me what has happened to the franchise.

  3. “so it grieves me what has happened to the franchise.”

    you wonder why i publish in all small letters?

    it’s ‘ptdd’

    post traumatic detroit disorder!

    it’s been going on around here since lem retired.

  4. Drew, dude. An oh-for-all season does not compare to a school bus going off a cliff or how Treasury (mis)handles the verge of a depression.

    Have a little proportionality. If this Lion’s season is the worst thing that will ever happen to you, then rejoice, for you will have lived a pleasant life.

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