There are lessons we can take away from the Carson King controversy. I doubt everyone will learn from them, but here’s my attempt to explain what should be realized.
Chances are all of you know Mr. King’s story. He’s a 24-year-old Iowa State football fan who made a poster, and created a Venmo link, asking people to donate to his Busch Light beer fund. He got on ESPN’s “College GameDay” with his sign, as the program was being broadcast from Ames prior to the CyHawk game.
People donated money and he decided to give the money to the children’s hospital at the University of Iowa. Upon making that decision, much more money came rolling in. Anheuser-Busch and Venmo both pledged to match the funds and this put the total over $1 million.
One million dollars to a worthwhile charity because a fun-loving young man showed a great deal of class in shifting the focus away from himself.
Of course, the Des Moines and national media praised King’s actions up one side and down the other. As they should, it’s a fantastic story and added a bright side to a game that was plagued by bad weather and reportedly bad behavior. Then the Des Moines Register decided to write a feature on King and reporter Aaron Calvin discovered that, as a teenager, King repeated a racially-themed joke he had heard on television via Twitter. When King was approached about the joke, King stood up like a man, admitted his mistake and got in front of it.
Nevertheless, Anheuser-Busch dropped its support of King, after they had truly tried to make an idol of him. King was immortalized on Busch Light beer cans, for example. I can’t call Anheuser-Busch the bad guy because it is still going to donate over $350,000 to the hospital. Venmo is following through with its donation and standing by King.
It has also been discovered by the Daily Caller that reporter Calvin had numerous racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-police and pro-domestic violence Tweets in his feed. Once that came out, Calvin started to delete his old Tweets. But he did not destroy all of them before they began to leak out and give the world a look into his character. Everyone is now asking why did the Register hire someone with such hate in his heart? That’s a good question.
No one is perfect. It’s a shame that people have forgotten that in this day and age. I don’t know Calvin, but I can tell you that if the Tweets of his I’ve read accurately portray him as a person, journalism is the wrong field for him. We need to try to get along with everybody, or at least not go into any situation with a blinding prejudice.
But there is the lesson Calvin should learn – judge not, lest ye be judged.
My question is why the Register felt the need to go back that far. King was, by legal definitions, a child when he repeated a joke. I don’t even know what the joke is. Maybe that should be released to let people decide as well.
Carol Hunter with the Register makes the point her statement that they perform background checks on feature story subjects. Her argument that this information may have affected people’s decision whether or not to support King’s cause. That may be true, but she goes on to say that editors were going back and forth on whether or not to include the discovered Tweet in this story.
In my opinion, it should never have been a discussion. King was a child, just trying to be cool, and likely has nothing to do with the man he is now.
Was the public remotely interested in digging through his Twitter feed back to 2012? Who among us would have done that? If discovered, who among us would immediately run to the media and say, “That guy once made a public, off-color joke! We should ignore the good things he’s done since he was momentarily a doofus as a kid!”?
Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?
But this is what the media, like the Register does. I don’t know the people involved, but I know when doing research, there is no need to go back that far for this story…unless you’re looking for a reason to tear down the idol you had just built. I see no purpose in doing this, and apparently, neither do most Iowans.
The backlash against the Register is justified in my opinion. They absolutely made the wrong call. Even if King’s Tweet was discovered by someone down the road who wanted the media to make a big deal about it, the media is still under no obligation to do so.
Of course, the Register might be in an unenviable position – if they discovered it and chose to leave it out, they would be accused of hiding facts. I believe they do that anyway to political figures, but King is not a political figure.
He is just seemingly a good guy who wanted to do something awesome. But I guess the Register doesn’t think we deserve nice things or feel-good stories anymore.
Take care of yourself and thank you for reading.