Bob Bestler

Registering a journalist: Do any of us make the cut?

Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, makes a point as he speaks on the floor of the South Carolina House during debate over a Senate Bill calling for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the statehouse grounds on July 8.
Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, makes a point as he speaks on the floor of the South Carolina House during debate over a Senate Bill calling for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the statehouse grounds on July 8. AP

State Rep. Mike Pitts, a Laurens Republican, is not happy with the way journalists are reporting the news in South Carolina, especially as it concerns reporting the ongoing Confederate flag controversy.

Now, in an attempt to make sure journalists toe the line, Pitts has introduced a bill to create a “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law,” with fines up to $500 for violations.

No one seriously thinks the Pitts proposal will get anywhere, what with the First Amendment and all, but I still have a fear that if I had to register as a responsible journalist, my attempt might go something like this:

State: Good morning, Mr. Bestler.

Me: Good morning, sir.

State: Mr. Bestler, your full name is Robert George Bestler. Isn't that correct?

Me: Yes.

State: So why do you use an alias? Do you have something to hide?

Me: An alias?

State: An alias. “Bob,” I believe it is.

Me: That's not an alias, Sir. That's a nickname.

State: Are you saying you've always been called Bob?

Me: Well, no. My mom called me Bobby.

State: OK, Bobby, if that is your name. I notice you are from Minnesota. Can you tell me why you want to be a journalist in South Carolina?

Me: It’s where I live. It’s where I was hired. It’s where my family is, my wife, my kids, my cat and dog. It has pretty mild winters. And some really nice golf courses.

State: Yes, but I know for a fact that you have been told repeatedly by some readers to move back north, we don’t want people like you here. Why haven’t you?

Me: It’s cold up there. Did you see all that snow the other day? I hate that snow. I don't even own a shovel.

State: Now I've spoken to many, many people in Horry County, good people, and they seriously question your journalistic bona fides. I've read some of your stuff myself and I have to tell you, Bobby, none of it seems to qualify as responsible, God-fearing journalism, the kind we prefer in South Carolina. What makes you think you’re a responsible journalist?

Me: Well, I have a degree from a large university. And I’ve received several awards. I brake for squirrels. And, doggone it, some people like me.

State: Here's another thing, Bobby. I have a headline here that you once wrote about a golf tournament you played in. It says, “Me and Joe Conquer Pine Lakes.” Even I know it should have read, “Joe and I Conquer Pine Lakes.” How could a responsible journalist be so irresponsible about grammar?

Me (weakly): I wasn't an English major, sir.

State: And what about all that trash you once wrote about the mayor of Myrtle Beach. Would you call any of those columns responsible journalism?

Me: Responsible? Maybe not. But a lot of people thought they were funny.

State: That's really all you care about isn't it. The heck with responsible journalism. Let's just be funny.

Me: Um ...

State: I think this interview is over, Bobby. You are clearly too irresponsible to work as a journalist in South Carolina. You can pay your $500 fine on the way out.

Me: $500? Wow. That's more than I make in a month. Do you take Visa?

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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