Now that it’s gone viral, CultureMap editor Clifford Pugh weighs in on the Houston Chronicle stripper-society reporter scandal with a stern defense of the newsworthiness of the revelation that Sarah Tressler, my successor on the social beat, is a stripper with a blog:
Everyone is entitled to a privacy, but when you write about your life for all to see, you shouldn’t be surprised when it comes back to haunt you. (It also makes many wonder, hasn’t the Chronicle ever heard of Google?)
Call me old-fashioned, but having worked in this business for 30 years (most of it at the Houston Post and Houston Chronicle before joining CultureMap), I’ve always found journalism a noble calling. Sure, most reporters don’t get paid well, but they get enormous opportunities to gain access to a world that most people will never see.
In exchange, they are held to a higher standard, which includes not doing anything to affect your credibility as a journalist and being open with an employer about anything in your past that might cause readers to view you in a different way.
Okay, I’ll bite: Clifford, you’re old-fashioned. More importantly, you’re deluding yourself if you think that the fact that the last two non-Lindsey Love members of the Chronicle society team have been sex workers is what should make people question the “credibility” of its coverage — or CultureMap’s — or that that’s where the real whoring action is between media outlets and the society figures on whom they “report.”
But Pugh’s right that Tressler, who had photos of herself on her blog and apparently didn’t even take them down after getting on staff at the paper, shouldn’t be surprised at the media orgy around her moonlighting, especially given what she’d written about Jeremy Piven’s cunnilingus technique — a decidedly angry-stripper, as opposed to happy-escort, move.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s not surprised at all. Tressler’s a smart woman who I’m pretty sure sees the Chronicle gig for what it is, and she may well have intended to be outed. Even if she didn’t, the way the story’s playing — which, despite Pugh’s huffing and puffing, has mostly been rightly sympathetic to Tressler and hostile to the lazy hack who “broke” the story — presents her with a golden opportunity regardless of what the Chronicle does. In which case, “shut up on the web” would be precisely the wrong life lesson to draw from this. A better one: Grow up, everybody. Talk about the sanctity of journalism is cheap coming from an outlet that rarely commits it.