Eight years ago, two Tattoo writers — Amanda Lehmert and Joe Wilbur (now known as Joe Killian) — headed out to report on the annual Miss Mum pageant in Bristol. They returned with a scathing report on the event.
We published it, of course, along with a pro-pageant piece by another fine Tattoo writer, Hila Yosafi.
The phones started ringing immediately and angry letters to the editor followed quickly.
Carmel Waldron of Bristol, for example, denounced Lehmert, Wilbur and the paper for printing “despicable trash” about the pageant, the city, the mayor, the emcee, a former Miss Bristol, a fomer Miss Mum “and all of the contestants.”
“Where do these two teenaged reporters get off disrespecting our Mayor?” asked another reader, Stacie Roberge, who also wrote, “Where did they learn to disrespect young women by negatively referring to the color of ones hair or size and shape of their bodies? These kinds of negative comments only perpetuate these stereotypes. Did they learn this at home? From their peers?… from their teachers and mentors? Giving an opinion is one thing, trashing respected officials and people you don’t even know, is totally uncalled for and downright rude. Do these two reporters have any idea how much courage and hard work it takes to get up on a stage, in front of an auditorium full of people and still remain calm and poised? As they sit behind their computers, I suppose they don’t.”
Yes, the fireworks were going off everywhere, with almost nobody bothering to note that Yosafi’s piece, running right alongside the one that had the pageant people all upset, was generally positive about Miss Mum and the pageant.
Personally, we always found it particularly ironic that Ms. Roberge would take aim at two high school reporters who published a tough piece for thousands upon thousands of people to read — with their names attached to it for all time — while griping that Lehmert and Wilbur had no idea how much courage it took to stand on the stage and answer questions.
Journalists, of course, are on a much bigger stage, and they have to pretty damn good at maintaining their poise when critics such as Ms. Roberge take aim. Thick skin is mandatory in the news business, because you can never please everyone.
It might surprise Ms. Roberge and her fellow critics to know that Lehmert is now a full-time reporter for the Cape Cod Times and that Killian is a full-time reporter for the Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record. They’re both doing bang-up work.
It turns out the work they were doing that night at the pageant helped each of them find a worthwhile, if not lucrative, career.
We don’t suppose those Miss Mum pageant winners are still on the stage anywhere, but rest assured that Killian and Lehmert are, and probably will be for decades to come, doing their bit to shape a nation.
In any case, take a few minutes and check out the story that started it all, along with Yosafi’s piece and the letters to the editor about it. It’s good reading even eight years later.
Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.