This is a story about a non-story. It’s the story of an attempt by Media Matters for America to portray me as another example of journalistic Stolen Valor, claiming credit where credit isn’t due. Media Matters, you know, has been very critical of Bill O’Reilly at Fox News lately, but the Outrage Beast must be fed fresh meat on a regular basis, and apparently I was the next meal.
Monday morning, I got a call from Joe Strupp, a Media Matters reporter. He had a few questions about my bio, he said. I answered them as best I could, though our conversation would look much different in his finished story.
The first few questions dealt with my claim to have won a Heartland Chapter Emmy. The National Association of Television Arts & Sciences had no record of my winning an Emmy. What did I have to say to that?
I explained that my work was for a two-year-long documentary project called “Oklahoma Rising” that covered the building of a dome for the Oklahoma state capitol building (something that was supposed to have been built around 1917). I also agreed that it was not, as someone reading my bio could have inferred, something that I won entirely on my own. Now, even in the post-Brian Williams media landscape, is this a big issue? Not in my opinion. But I’m not the one writing the story, nor am I Strupp’s assignment editor.
The next set of questions dealt with my claim to have received a “Great Oklahoman” resolution from the Oklahoma State House. Joe Strupp let me know that the Oklahoma State House had no record of any such resolution, and what did I have to say about that?
I explained that this was something given to me as I was leaving the state of Oklahoma, where I had lived most of my life, to launch NRA News and the Cam & Company show. I hadn’t seen the document in question in quite awhile, but I recalled the name of Rep. Thad Balkman and then-Lt. Governor Mary Fallin on the document. I told him I thought I still had the document somewhere, and agreed to send him a copy if I found it.
Here, Let Me Dig Through My Life For You
After we spoke, I called my wife and asked her if she had seen the “Great Oklahoman” document in the house. Thankfully, she knew exactly where to look, and soon texted me a picture of the proclamation.
But it was a “Citation,” not a “Resolution” by the state House of Representatives and the Lt. Governor. So, I sent Joe an email telling him:
Wanted to let you know that after we talked I took at a look at my bio on NRA News and have made the following changes.
- The Heartland Chapter Emmy mention now explicitly states that this was part of a shared effort by the ‘Stateline’ program for a documentary on the Oklahoma Capitol Dome. As I said, I was only a part of a great team in the documentary unit, and my bio should reflect that.
- The ‘Great Oklahoman’ resolution.. Turns out this is actually a ‘citation’, not a resolution. The language says ‘Now therefore, pursuant to the motion of Representative Thad Balkman and Lt. Governor Mary Fallin, the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Lt. Governor of Oklahoma extends to Cam Edwards sincere congratulations and directs that this citation be presented’. So, I’ve changed the mention in mention in my bio from ‘resolution’ to ‘citation’, and also noting that this was from both the House and Lt. Governor. I actually debated removing this from my bio because I doubt the citation is of importance to anyone but myself, but as I said, I grew up in Oklahoma and I’m proud to have had so many wonderful years there.”
Joe soon replied asking for a picture of the citation, so I sent that along as well. Now at this point, the non-news story was REALLY a non-story, but I knew that Media Matters was going to write something anyway. So, during the first segment of Cam & Company, I spent a few minutes talking about the phone call with Strupp: explaining that he had these questions, and that I had given him answers, and that I had accordingly made the corresponding changes to my bio.
I also pointed out the obvious: THIS WASN’T NEWS. I admitted, though, that this did prompt some self-reflection, and I realized that it had been far too long since I’d said “thank you” and recognized the many individuals who work to make NRA News Cam & Company happen every weekday. So I did.
A few hours later, as I was on the air, Media Matters posted their story. There was no mention of the “Great Oklahoman” proclamation, even though that was a big part of their questioning. Instead, the story was devoted to the Heartland Emmy the “Stateline” program received. I was “misrepresenting” myself, according to the executive director of the NATAS Heartland Chapter, Audry Elling. According to her, “Based on my experience, I’d like to assume that Cam worked on an Emmy award-winning production, but was not officially listed as one of the crew, which is why his name doesn’t come up in our database. Even if that’s the case, he is misrepresenting himself on his website: only our official award-winners may self-designate as such.”
So, during the next break, I checked the NATAS Heartland Chapter website. There was a problem in the Media Matters story, but there was also a problem for me. Media Matters had confused the “Stateline” documentary with another Emmy winner: the live broadcast of the dedication of the dome atop the Oklahoma state capitol (It was a big deal for Oklahomans at the time. Remember, this was pre-Kevin Durant and the Thunder. It was a simpler time). But even the information about the Stateline documentary didn’t list me. Thankfully, I remembered a (smallish) box of award certificates that I’d brought in to the office a few weeks earlier when my wife and I were cleaning out our bedroom closet. During the next commercial break, I checked the box, and wrapped up in newspaper and in a frame, I found my certificate from the Heartland Regional Emmy Awards.
It’s Not About Reporting, It’s About Outrage
After the show ended, I took a picture of the award and emailed Strupp, asking for an update to the Media Matters blog (which, as of this writing, hasn’t happened) in light of the photograph of the award in question. Joe replied with a question, wondering why would the NATAS Heartland chapter wouldn’t have me listed on their website but they would have issued me the award?
Kinda sounds like a question for the NATAS Heartland Chapter, not me, but I’m curious to know the answer as well. For over a decade now, I assumed that this piece of paper that said “Emmy Awards” with my name on it actually meant something. Now the folks responsible for giving this to me are saying it doesn’t mean anything.
It’s funny. When I was originally talking with Strupp, he thanked me for actually talking with him. I told him that when I was a reporter, I’d always give a bit of advice to those reluctant to talk to me: You can refuse to comment, but the story’s still going to run anyway. At least you can tell your side of the story.
I still want to believe that’s good advice, but the trouble is that you have to have a reporter willing to tell that side of the story. I wish Strupp had provided as much information in his story about me as I provided my audience in telling them about our exchange. I wish Strupp had been willing to acknowledge I was generally correct in my explanation for the “Great Oklahoman” citation, and had given me even a tiny bit of benefit of the doubt regarding the Heartland Chapter Emmy. But, as the saying goes, if wishes were fishes we’d have a big fry.
I used to wonder why Media Matters would focus so much of their attention on nonsense like this. I mean, we do 20 hours a week of live, unscripted broadcasting on NRA News Cam & Co. Why aren’t they live-blogging that every day? Wouldn’t that be red meat for their audience? Now I know why that will never happen. Their audience would be exposed to substantive issues in a different way than they normally hear them. While that might be media that actually matters, it would also take away from a key mission of the organization: feeding the Outrage Beast its daily diet of nothingburgers.