cannot gouge out
In writing the story
about bikers cited for not wearing helmets during Horton Swift's July 1996
funeral procession, I began to have some ethical anxiety. Swift's son,
Michael, owner of the Alibi Lounge, advertises in The Pit. It dawned
on me that the same conflicts of interest that seem so obvious to me in
officials are no less obvious to those readers who observe The Pit month
after month. Even though I wrote about the bikers long before the bar began
advertising, why should anyone think that the story in The Pit is
not colored by the money that Swift's support has meant to me personally?
Well, there is no reason,
so I'll have to create one.
In order to remove any
appearance of ethical conflict from myself and The Putnam Pit, I
am going to give all the advertising money paid to The Pit by The
Alibi Lounge to the Communications Department at Loyola University in New
Orleans, to establish a Darlene Eldridge grant for journalism students
interested in investigative reporting and official corruption.
Eldridge was murdered
in 1992. Her killer has not been indicted.
Dr. Alfred L. Lorenz,
whose columns bring some class to these pages from time to time, is a professor
at Loyola. He taught me journalism more than 20 years ago. I trust that
he can clone me intellectually.
I will also no longer
accept advertising from the Alibi Lounge, even after the helmet case is
Nor will I accept advertising
from Eldridge Auto Sales, which has supported The Pit from its first
issue. I want it clear there is no connection between Eldridge's support
of The Pit and my stories about Darlene Eldridge's killing and Fabien
Eldridge's felony conviction by prosecutors with a monetary interest in
Eldridge and Swift supported
this paper because it has the guts to report facts, not to buy favors.
I do both of them, and this paper, an injustice by accepting money from
them because the facts should not be interpreted by cynics as untrue because
these people advertise.
The Swift story, and the
likelihood that someone will think it was motivated by money, was written
on the same day as another incident in which another reader suggested that
The Pit's civil rights suit against the
city was motivated by greed, not principle. After discussing the suit with
him over lunch Friday at Rice's Restaurant with the roundtable group, and
after he read the federal complaint, he wrote a $30 check to subscribe
to The Pit.
I'll send that check to
Loyola as well.
In fact, I will forward
all money for Pit subscriptions I receive through the month of March
to the university to establish the grant.
Finally, if I prevail
in my lawsuit against the city I will give 50% of any punitive damages
I'm left with to Loyola for an investigative reporting scholarship in Darlene
Eldridge's name. It seems fitting that Eldridge, a school teacher, should
be remembered in a way that continues to educate.
If just one student can
buy one book that will lead to one injustice reversed, it would be worth
That is what The Pit
I once received a message
from a reader who felt that it would only be a matter of time until The
Pit betrayed readers and sold out for influence, money or buddies.
I granted her irrevocable permission to gouge out my eyes if I ever betrayed
She will not be able to
do so today.