Friday, August 12, 2011

Stories Like Hinkle's...What is News, and What isn't News

Representative Hinkle
There's been a lot of chatter today about State Representative Phil Hinkle and the "Craigslist Encounter" story the Star broke this morning. I suspect there will continue to be for a few days. We'd better get used to that.

The Indy Star's article seemed to mostly try to cover the facts, although it seemed from just one side. (Admittedly, it sounds like they did contact the Hinkle camp, and Hinkle & Co played politician and gave vague responses, most likely to try to find time to get their story straight.)

From Advance Indiana, we heard shock. "Say it ain't so, Phil."

From Jon Easter over at the Indy Democrat we heard disappointment. You see, Hinkle is a close family friend of the Easters. Very respectfully,  Jon said he was going to bow out of this one. (He even disabled comments on the post so that his blog stays clear of some of the Hinkle-bashing that was sure to occur.)

Paul Ogden over at Ogden on Politics took a different approach...he asked if this is even news. Paul's one of my favorite bloggers and once again he has hit the nail on the head.

Ogden's specific question was where do we draw the line between what IS news and what ISN'T news in a case like this. Well, Paul, I've got the answer.

Sorry to harp on you, Representative Hinkle, but the answer is right here in this story about you. You see, this story provides great examples on both sides of the coin. There is plenty being covered that we simply shouldn't care about. There's definitely parts if this story that are worth covering, however.

Let's start with what ISN'T news.  Phil Hinkle might be gay.  Or bisexual.  Or experimenting (who said that needs left to college kids?)

The point is I don't care and neither should you. Phil Hinkle's sexual preferences, as long as they remain between him and another consenting adult, should remain the business of him and other consenting adults. I don't give a flying rat's behind if he's meeting a grown man in a hotel.  Or a grown woman. Or one of each. few of each.  What Phil Hinkle does in the private areas of his life should remain part of the private areas of his life.

The next question here is the hypocrisy.  Is it news that someone who has been a supporter of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman may be involved in homosexual relations?  Meh.  Maybe.  This author, again, doesn't care about this.  Should you be a hypocrite?  No.  Should it be news every time hypocrisy is discovered in a politician?  Wow...definitely not.  It'd consume all the news all the time.

The last question deals with the remaining aspects of the story.  For further definition, I will quote a couple pieces of the Star's story.

-->"He said the lawmaker at first told him he could not leave, grabbed him in the rear, exposed himself to the young man and then later gave him an iPad, BlackBerry cellphone and $100 cash to keep quiet."

-->"Phinkle46 'How about $80 for services rendered and if real satisfied a healthy tip? That make it worth while?'"

-->"One email from Hinkle's account asks 'what will make you happy for giving me a couple hours of your time tonight?'

Gibson: 'Wat (sic) can you give me?'

Phinkle46 'How about $80 for services rendered and if real satisfied a healthy tip? That make it worth while?'"

-->"Final for the record, for a really good time, you could get another 50, 60 bucks. That sound good?"

-->"He said Hinkle's response was: 'You need to do this, because I came and got you, and I'm not taking you back until we do what we need to do.'"

-->"When Gibson came out, he said Hinkle told him he couldn't leave. "

-->"Kameryn and Megan Gibson said Hinkle then offered his iPad, a BlackBerry and $100 in cash."

-->"Megan Gibson said on her way back, she received another call from Hinkle's wife. 'The first thing she said, she was like, 'OK, we will give you $10,000 not to say anything,' " said Megan Gibson, who said she was now becoming scared. 'I was like, 'OK,' and I hung up the phone.'"

OK, Representative Hinkle, this is where things get a little hairy.  Before I proceed, I'd like to reaffirm that everything mentioned here is alleged.

Sure, it doesn't sound like you specifically offered money in return for sexual favors.  Most of us are reading between the lines, though, and it sure as hell sounds like that's what you meant.

Sure, you didn't specifically tell anyone that they couldn't leave until they fulfilled their "obligation."  Most of us are reading between the lines, though, and it sure as hell sounds like that's what you meant.

It definitely sounds like you might have specifically offered goods, monies, or both to keep their mouth shut about what took place, though. Not too much reading between the lines is necessary there.

This is where this whole story becomes newsworthy.  Gay fling?  Not worthy of my time.  Bit of a hypocrite?  Eh, it happens.  Be a lawmaker possibly involved in the criminal side of prostitution and/or buying off people's silence about a potentially criminal act?  You better bet that's news.

So, there's your answer Mr. Ogden.  That's where the line is drawn about what SHOULD be news and what HAPPENS to be news.  In cases like this, it's all about the fact you might've broken the law.

As is the case all too many times in all too many cases, it's not the action that really gets you in's the lies and the cover-up.


  1. As far as the money goes, I think it's quite possible that the Hinkles were asked to pay $10,000 for silence, rather than it was offered without any request. We're talking a heck of a lot more serious crime than prostitution, or the soliciation thereof, we're talking extortion.

    As far as the prostitution angle, I get you, but what happens if down the road, in another case you have one side claiming there were offers of money or other things of value for sex. Not real hard to fake emails. As far "other things," what about men buying women jewelry and other stuff in order to obtain sex. Like bribery there is not always a quid pro quo. For me, when it comes to the issue of whether prostitution might be involved, I'm perfectly fine waiting to see if the police and prosecutor thinks it's worth pursuing.

  2. When a lawmaker vote to "protect the sanctity of marriage," then goes on the DL himself, that hypocrisy should absolutely be news. As a Democrat, it's not the personal hypocrisy or private behavior that matters (the violation of his marital vows), it's the double standard between his political votes and his private behavior. Of course, when that also includes a possible criminal act, that should also be news.

  3. Gobnaix, as far as that goes, I never heard Hinkle talking about family values or wearing religion on his sleeve like many Republicans.

    As far as outing people for possible criminal violations, so someone makes an accusation of criminal activity and that's automatically news? That standard might work in this case, but it won't work in others. It could well be that Hinkle was set up and that they thought they could extort $10,000 from a legislator. You can't tell me they didn't google Hinkle's name before the meeting. Of course they did.

  4. See, while I am a friend of the Hinkles, I must admit that this IS a story. Phil's voting record and his apparent actions in this case do not match up.

  5. Jon, even the hypocrisy angle is really a slippery slope. I never heard Hinkle talking about family values on the stump or preaching personal moralilty. He simly voted the way his caucus did on the same sex marriage amendment, but then so did many Democrats. I can understand someone constantly preaching family values, the imporantce of marriage and then cheating on his wife being a story for example. But Hinkle never led with those issues. I think if you use "hypocrisy" as the angle for news coverage that's going to fling the door wide open for about anything.

    Let me ask you this, Jon, if you didn't know Phil, and someone came to you with the same info that was given to he Star, would you cover it? I wouldn't have.