Students learn from public official

April 8, 2011 Feature Print Print
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Rachel Butler

The topic was gay and lesbian history month and the response was a blizzard of electronic messages.

Some of the e-mails were “awful,” a few were “heartfelt” but most were “kind of scary,” said Rachel Butler, Norman City Council member and OCCC librarian.

Butler described the reaction to the Gay and Lesbian History Month Resolution the Norman council passed when she spoke to the evening News Writing class in March.

Butler said the experience played a part in her decision not to seek re-election this year.

On Sept. 28, the Norman City Council voted 7-1 to accept a resolution acknowledging October as LGBT History Month.

She said the experience was different from anything else she had ever experienced in her eight years as a Norman City Council member.

Typically, she said, a resolution takes 90 seconds to complete.

The resolution for the LGBT History Month lasted more than three hours because of the incensed debate during the open comment period of the meeting.

Butler said that night, a young gay man named Zach Harrington, a native of Norman, was in attendance for the Sept. 28 meeting. A week later, Harrington took his life in his family’s home.

His family believes it was partly because of the intolerance of his lifestyle his fellow Normanites were voicing at the meeting.

Butler also spoke to the class about how council meetings are covered by the press and about journalistic integrity.

Butler said, typically, two newspapers cover the regular council meetings.

“Sometimes they do well and sometimes it’s sloppy and it’s frustrating,” she said.

Butler urged the journalism students to “do your homework” and not to be “lazy.”

Butler explained how the public believes the media; therefore, it is important to be accurate.

Butler said when gathering information from sources, it is important to be explicit about what information a writer may need while remaining flexible.

She also stressed the importance of using different sources to obtain the most accurate information.

“Don’t always use the same source,” Butler said. “You never know what ax someone may be trying to grind.”

Lastly she encouraged the students to do their best in their future careers.

“Do something you can be proud of,” Butler said. “What you do is important.”

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