2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Pork chop: The dilemma

Published: July 7, 2014, 6:19 pm, by interns

By Elise Schmelzer

In journalism school they teach you to never accept food or gifts from sources. Ever.

That is for bad journalists, professors say from their lecture podiums. The will corrupt you with free croissants and pens, they say.

And I, like the good student I (usually) try to be, respected this.

Until the Thills made pork chops.

The Thills are the homeless family my co-worker Emily and I are chronicling for the Gazette’s upcoming multi-day package on area homelessness. We followed them throughout their day and at the end of that day they had pork chops to pan fry, including two for us.

Pork chops are not normal fare for the Thills — this was an occasion and we were the honored guests.

Usually, not accepting food from sources is a way to keep a journalist free from bias and debt. It keeps a journalist from writing with a more positive angle because of the coffee they bought you or because “you owe them.”

We had refused their offers of sandwiches earlier in the day. We had brought our own and didn’t want to eat their precious resources. But when our refusals were met with mutters of “Maybe our sandwiches aren’t good enough,” we knew we had to reconsider.

When dinner rolled around we were prepared. We chowed down around the Salvation Army table with the Thills. I have no guilt and owe no professor an apology.

Standards are important. They create a norm and a code of ethics. However, not every situation and source is the same. Professors in podiums are not always right.

For some, free pork chops are a way to tilt a journalist’s pen. For others, it’s a statement of pride.

Elise Schmelzer is an undergraduate student at the University of  Missouri from Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @eliseschmelzer.