You cannot gouge out 
my eyes today
Putnam Pit editor
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 concluded. 

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 the outcome. 

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 everything. 

That is what The Pit is about. 

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 her trust. 

She will not be able to do so today.