November 12, 2022

An Odd Accusation of Bias Why I Ignored a Story Pitch

I receive many story pitches each week. They arrive in my inboxes and my direct messages.

Most of them are outside of my primary beat - that is they are not a Hamilton City Hall story.

As a reader-funded journalist, I must be clear about what I cover and what readers can expect from me.

I do my best to respond to messages and pitches, usually with a polite thank you for thinking of me, unfortunately ... then a quick reason why I cannot cover the story. For first-time emails, I'll say they are welcome to keep sending me pitches - one never knows when a story idea's timing will be ideal.

A pleasant response often follows. Communications pros appreciate a response, all too often they receive no reply or acknowledgment.

One of the benefits of guest lecturing in communications programs is I learn about "the other side." This is why, especially when a pitch comes from an early career communicator or student, I try to send a personal response when declining to follow up on a pitch.

Every few months, I'll receive a response accusing me of not caring about the subject or some other expression of disappointment from a passionate advocate of whatever they pitch. Again, part of the job.

Every few weeks, a person will accuse me of harbouring some socially unacceptable or discriminatory bias as the explanation for why I do not cover their pitch. Again, just part of the job.

A New and Unusual Bias Claim

A few weeks ago, shortly after the municipal election, a person sent me an interesting pitch for a story outside of my usual beat.

I read it and thought it was interesting, but there were two reasons I did not cover it. One, I needed to take a break post-election. Two, the story will require much time and is not directly within my beat.

I did not respond to the Direct Message - again I get more correspondence than I can respond to.

This week, the person DM'd me with an accusation that maybe I am biased against them because one of their ex-relationships was with a person who shares an interest which I do.

(I'm intentionally being vague because I am not looking to shame or identify the person)

I have no idea who they are referring to. I haven't engaged in the interest for at least five years. And even if I did engage in the interest or know the person from this interest, it is a bit of a stretch to suggest this would cause me to be biased against someone's pitch.