CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: The Ethics of Journalism — Wanna Bribe CR2S?

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WIMPY1By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

To want to be like a white politician is daunting and can have serious consequences. Just ask Leland Yee. But let’s don’t misconstrue. I’m not so blindly jingoistic to overlook enticements facing other Asian American wannabes: Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese. They can just as easily fall victim as Chinese.

But with no shame or apology, I admit to cringing only when the name has a Jappo lilt. And maybe some will take me to task for saying out loud the only way blacks and browns can outnumber whites is in prison. I believe the Nisei, in my provincial and stereotypical mind, just weren’t cut out to be (successful) criminals.  [Cry foul, take umbrage, but please no email.]

Politicians, public servants, cops, et al, anyone of authority or in positions of power, are subject to temptation. Judges, referees, Wall Street denizens, lawyers, doctors, the list is notable and endless. What you will rarely see is a journalist of any race or color enticed to break the law. It’s because we’re lureless, a non-word that means we’re not worth being tempted. While there have been authors known to fabricate, womanize, lie and plagiarize, rarely if ever do they end up in jail for transgressions.

As often mentioned, CR2S does not make a habit of reprinting *reader mail. This is because an influential professor cautioned against the practice because it can make a column writer lazy. Yet once in a while, an inquiry can set creative juices roiling. Referencing the Yee shenanigans, a question arose asking if CR2S had ever confronted an ethical dilemma. [*The “no outside help” policy was enhanced when L.A. Times political cartoonist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Conrad told me he never drew a panel based on anyone’s suggestion.]

Reaching back history, join me at SC journalism school and my aforementioned advisor/mentor: Besides being a J-school professor, Frederick C. Coonradt was also an unofficial employment consultant, referencing qualified seniors to paid offers received from outliers. One came from an unidentified source that offered five hundred (cash) to produce a flyer favoring a gambling interest in a hotly contested ballot measure; simple, easy, legal, though a bit dubious. Three out of four wasn’t bad.

With the GI Bill providing a monthly stipend of seventy-five bucks, times weren’t exactly flush at University of Sagging Cash. Without great conviction, I turned down the offer. [The prof and I had a drink when we learned the ballot measure was defeated. There were no high fives or chest bumps in those days.]

A closer skirmish with the dark side came as editor of Crossroads weekly newspaper: There was no apparent concern when Li’l Tokio nomiyas began to grow in number and reputation. The chamber of commerce and business association took a see-no-evil stand regarding the proliferation. [A nomiya had a mama-san (bar manager) who assigned  congenial hostesses to join patrons in drink and conversation, an old country practice. But over here a dumb dude would be plied with a continuous supply of booze while the hostess would drink colored water or tea. Eventually it’s last call, time for a pseudo-romantic “sayonara” (she protected by kimono) and a promise of greater promise upon his promised return.]

My dear mother, a compassionate Christian lady of the first order, told me the sad tale of a young mother who had recently moved to Riverside. Her gardener husband had been seduced by the lure of big-city night life and was spending too much of his hard-earned money and time at a bar near my office. “Terubo, can you do something about it?” When a mother asks for help, one doesn’t procrastinate and cannot refuse.

There were a dozen marginal operations within the borders of Li’l Tokio. Some even advertised in my holiday editions. The guy who took care of my paper’s distribution was the muscle for a couple of the places. Despite such an incongruous background, I asked Rev. Howard Toriumi of Union Church to join me in a campaign to stifle their growth and educate the witless. Leaders of other churches, veteran groups and concerned individuals signed on. Community meetings and editorials followed.

John Babcock, an ABC nightlife reporter friend, suggested we visit bars and surreptitiously record incriminating conversations. John was a huge man, so hiding a crude and cumbersome bug posed no problem.

Mama-sans were aware of but unfazed by the campaign. One late night in a private booth, an envelope appears on the table. I don’t flinch nor look at the contents. Like in a B movie, I push it back to the Boss Lady without a word. Then, in perfect Humphrey Bogart style, I stand and nod to Babcock it’s time to leave. Once outside, the berating began: “I can’t tape a criminal conversation when there is no talking,” he complains unhappily. “The least you could do is let me finish my friggin’ beer” was his second lament. Walking back to my San Pedro Street office, he finally asks: “How much do you think was in the envelope?” With that question, the ersatz investigative team of Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet came to an end.

The committee later was  disbanded. When the drive began, there were twelve evil establishments. When it ended, the number had not diminished, it had grown to*sixteen! Eventually they did all close, a belated combination of public and legal dissolution.

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[BULLETIN: According to an unreliable source not authorized to speak on the subject, the sale of Keiro Senior Care facilities was consummated last week.]

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

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