There was no byline

In case you missed this in all the madness, one of the U.S. Capitol invaders from last week scrawled MURDER THE MEDIA on a door.

There was no byline.

That sounds like I’m trying to be cute—a quick four-word punch to grab the reader’s attention. But, truly, that’s what grabs me about black MURDER THE MEDIA on white door: No byline.

The swine innard who pulled out a pen to scrawl MURDER THE MEDIA lacked the courage to add his/her name. We don’t know where the person is from, how old he/she is, how we can reach out via e-mail or Facebook or Twitter. We know nothing, save for iffy penmanship. The writer is long gone—perhaps back on a ranch in Oklahoma, perhaps back in a board room in Trenton, perhaps laughing his/her ass off at the mayhem that was brought to the nation’ capital.

There was no byline.

We, members of the media, are required (with rare, unfortunate exception) to have bylines. Whether you’re writing for Sports Illustrated or GQ or the New York Times of Fox News’ website, you have to place your name alongside your words. It’s not merely an identifying element, but an ode to our profession’s longstanding code of accountability. Yes, I wrote the Seahawks won’t win five games next year—here’s my name and Twitter handle. Yes, I wrote Donald Trump is a tremendous leader—here’s my name and Twitter handle. Yes, I’m a columnist for the Washington Post. You know how to reach me.

I’ve told this story many times, but back when I was a young sports reporter for The (Nashville) Tennessean, I covered a high school football game between Goodpasture Christian and David Lipscomb. It was my second-to-last week at the newspaper, before heading off to New York and Sports Illustrated. That night, I went out to the field and watched David Kirkau, the Lipscomb quarterback, play poorly. My next-morning article included the line, “The Mustangs’ David Kirkau, meanwhile, had an up-and-down sort of day—as in, his passes either went up too high or down too low.”

The ensuing phone calls were nonstop. How could you write such a thing? Who the hell do you think you are? Hence, the following Saturday night Larry Taft, my editor, sent me out to Lipscomb to cover the school’s playoff game. It would be my last-ever Tennessean assignment. “You always show your face after a story like that,” Larry told me. “It’s the professional way to be.”

He was 100-percent correct. I will never forget that night. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, with the game out of reach, I strolled down to the Lipscomb sideline to prepare for aftermath interviews. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by a bunch of players. Kirkau, the quarterback, stepped forward. “Don’t you ever come back here again!” he said.

The next day I left for Sports Illustrated. I’ve long believed David Kirkau thought he forced me out of town.

Whatever the case, I was accountable.

He knew how to find me.

Meanwhile, the MURDER THE MEDIA douche hides. Like a coward.

Leave a Reply