Porn and Prejudice: Newspaper Edition

Silhouette of Stripper on a PoleHouston was shocked, shocked! to learn that one of the Houston Chronicle’s society reporters — truly the last guardians of dignity in our culture — was moonlighting as a (gasp) stripper. Now she no longer works as a society reporter, and presumably society is safe once more.

Richard Connelly, a writer for the Houston Post, broke the story with all the gravitas you might expect from the guy who broke the story of hot chicks on the Texas sex offender registry. When faced with criticism that all he was doing was good old-fashioned slut-shaming, he tried to deny it by confirming it:

I don’t get the”slut shaming” charge. If you want to be a stripper, fine.

If you want to write for a very conservative, uptight paper — covering the very powerful, very conservative and straitlaced people the paper so desperately works to keep happy and unruffled — fine.

If you want to combine the two, it’s interesting, to say the least.

Andrea Grimes aptly addresses why Connelly probably really doesn’t think it’s “fine:”

Connelly’s entire post belies the “If you want to be a stripper, fine,” sentence. Obviously it’s not “fine” with Connelly or he wouldn’t have written an entire blog post on this woman, dug up background information on her, posted pictures so everyone could see what she looks like, contacted her bosses to make sure they knew she was a stripper and–here’s the journalism 101 FAIL, guys: posted the whole thing before he had heard from her for comment (or heard from her declining to do so).

This strikes me as an example of a person creating a situation, then claiming that it is something important, “interesting,” and newsworthy. Connelly acts like he is motivated out of concern that a reporter at a conservative Texas newspaper is also a low-level sex worker, but the whole thing might have never come to light had he not broken the story himself. It is the journalistic equivalent of internet hunting. Besides, Tressler wasn’t exactly hiding.

It’s not terribly hard to drum up a bit of outrage by revealing that someone works on the side as a — gasp! — stripper. Houston has a rather tremendous number of strip clubs (I have heard that it has among the biggest number of strip clubs per capita in the country, whatever that means, but I can’t find figures on that, alas.) It should not be surprising to learn that a Houstonian works or has worked as a stripper, any more than learning that a Houstonian has patronized a strip club. Many people seem to still think that activities in strip clubs are much more interesting (and less legal) than they usually are. The bottom line is that it is an effective way for some people to make money, and now one person has lost the job most directly related to their career. Working as a stripper is only scandalous because certain busybodies make it so.

In closing, the best headline to come out of this manufactroversy: “Stripper Holds Shameful Secret Day Job as a Reporter.”

Photo credit: Silhouette of Stripper on a Pole by Momoko (Open Clip Art library image’s page) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons.