An Evaluation of Journalistic Principles in “The Klavaliers Ride to a Fall” by Stetson Kennedy

In Stetson Kennedy’s article “The Klavaliers Ride to a Fall,” the principle of journalism that he best follows is one from Kovach and Rosentiel. The principle is that journalists must have an “independence from race, ethnicity, religion, and gender.” (Kovach and Rosentiel, 132) Throughout the article, Kennedy successfully lacks any bias on specifically race and gender. Even during the early 1950s in the deep South when African American men could not pick up white women in taxis because of the law, Kennedy looked beyond the laws and the prejudices to write this article. During this time period, Kennedy could have also shown a bias towards the woman in the article; possibly blaming her less because she was a woman. He shows no bias towards her and states harshly:

I looked, and saw a buxom peroxide blonde of the sort generally found in third-rate bars.” (Shapiro 255)

The successes of Kennedy’s articles are due to his lack of bias towards anyone in his article.

Kennedy was not as successful at a second journalistic principle that Kovach and Rosentiel mention. While going undercover in the Klan, he did not “maintain an independence from those that [he] cover[ed]” (Kovach and Rosentiel, 118) Kennedy should have looked deeper into the evil of the clan to see men that were also victims of wrong teachings and centuries of prejudice. He could not help but show a strong bias to the African American man that was killed, which is understandable but not the best for his writing. He also was extremely deep into his story, so deep that his independence from the Klan could be questioned. Although he tried to make a call to warn of a possible harm doing, he made the decision to keep his cover.

Kennedy also successfully follows stylistic journalistic principles in this article. He is very successful with, what Knight calls, “separating the craft from the profession.” (Knight, 118) For example, near the end of this story after Kennedy includes the obituary of James Martin, he concisely and powerfully concludes the article:

I wondered how many Negroes had died similarly violent deaths in the South, only to have one-inch obituaries bury the atrocities as “accidents.” James Martin, I swore to myself, was not going to be buried that way.

Kennedy is a legendary journalist because of his ability to “make the most economic use of words without losing [their] meaning or flavor” (Knight, 118)

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