Last Monday, I made fun of an interview third place Big Brother 3 houseguest Jason Guy did before he started a new job as a local news anchor here in Central Florida. A day later, Jason responded, and because I have hoped for nothing more in my 32 years on this planet than a two-round Twitter/blog war with a Big Brother 3 houseguest-turned-local news anchor, I felt compelled to respond.
Because my original piece was a single, 230-something-word sentence, it was more of an attempt to be clever than an attempt at a detailed critique, and mostly I was mocking local news–which I think is largely irrelevant and sucks except when it is covering breaking news, because the rest of the time it tries to pretend that its non-news is breaking news that is so terrifying we must stay tuned. But I digress.
In his interview with The Orlando Sentinel’s Hal Boedeker, Jason said, and I’m paraphrasing/mocking here, that his job of reading from a telepromoter was both journalism and somehow helped by his appearance on Big Brother. That’s inherently funny because of the contrast between a ridiculous reality show and the self-importance of local news. To top it off, he mentioned that working as a casting director taught him journalistic skills, which also seemed amusing.
On Tuesday, another local TV news person, Amy Lacey, leapt to Jason’s defense and called me a “shoddy journalist” after Jason responded, writing on Twitter, “Uh, yeah. I read the slander yesterday. Hey, Andy. Why don’t you watch my work before throwing a stone.”
This made me laugh, and not just because of the lack of a question mark on a question. My piece said nothing of his work; instead, it very clearly called his assertions absurd and ridiculous. I wrote before he started his job, of course, but I eventually did see him on TV, and thought he was perfectly fine–maybe even great–at reading off the teleprompter. I’m sure I would suck at that job, which is why I am a writer, and probably why VH1 cut my 90 minutes of commentary to 15 seconds in its second reality moment special.
As to journalism, Jason’s calling my remark “slander” is the most ridiculous part. To be pedantic for a moment, slander is spoken defamation, while libel is written defamation. Regardless of the medium, in both cases, opinion doesn’t constitute defamation, nor does fair comment. There’s also the additional complication of being a public figure, which basically says that a celebrity or public official has to prove “actual malice” in the event of actual defamation, which of course doesn’t even apply here, because again, opinions aren’t defamation, and what I wrote was clearly opinion. (The public figure distinction is why in the U.S. celebrities are regularly subject to absurd allegations; to recover damages, they’d have to prove “actual malice” on the part of the person defaming them, among other things.)
And in any case, after appearing on national TV and working in local news for a while, you’d think Jason would be a little bit less touchy about some very mild criticism. And really, my post wasn’t intended to be anything more than some news about a former reality star and commentary about that, but maybe I failed and instead was just being unfair and mean. For sure, in the 1 to 10 range of egregious things reality stars do that deserve scorn and condemnation, his comments were about a .05. They just struck me as funny.
Finally, for the record, I have nothing against someone using their fame to get work, especially work that does not involve desperately attempting to cling to a moment in time when they were first on a reality show. And I’m sure the next time there’s a hurricane, I’ll turn on the TV and Jason will read me some important information, and do it quite well.