Back in May of this year, attorney for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, posted a poll on his Twitter account:
Time for a poll. Vote as to whether I should a) stay on television and keep disclosing accurate information to the American public or b) get off television and stop disclosing accurate information.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 15, 2018
I responded somewhat in jest:
c) stay on television and keep disclosing accurate information to the American public SHIRTLESS
— Justin W. Waldrop (@JustinWWaldrop) May 15, 2018
87 likes, 6 retweets and 6,000+ impressions later, I knew I’d hit on something but had yet to realize its full reach.
I wasn’t the only respondent to suggest Mr. Avenatti make appearances sans clothes. Others garnered a much greater amount of engagement. Yet, a week later, a reporter for Business Insider contacted me wanting an interview about the tweet and why I believed Avenatti had such a growing base of fans in “the left.”
I took a full day to weigh the pros and cons of saying yes. As a journalist, ethics forbade me from entering into the political arena. I knew I’d have to craft my responses to tread the line yet make a definitive statement at the same time – a skill that after years in the news business, I knew how to handle.
Yet, the voice in the back of my head started whispering the old adage “all publicity is good publicity” – something I didn’t particularly ascribe to. I’ve seen firsthand just how wrong that saying can be.
Business Insider is an international publication with millions of followers and subscribers. Having been “tweet quoted” in publications like the Washington Post, Huffington Post, The Blaze, Fox News, and even People magazine was nothing new to me. This, though, expanded on that reach and gave me a platform to speak on something bigger than myself.
The exposure coupled with my confidence that I could tune the message correctly pushed me to grant the interview.
I told few coworkers about the piece, instead keeping it to myself as I bit my nails after crafting my responses to shed myself in the most intelligent light possible. I knew all too well how that tweet could swing back and bite me in the ass. At this stage in my career, granting credence to a prominent figure battling a tumultuous (at best) administration could be considered dangerous – if not career suicide.
As a journalist, it is a difficult decision to make when we take ourselves from telling a story to being a part of it – especially when politics are involved.
At the same time, I don’t follow Michael Avenatti because of his appearance. If that were true I’d just follow his Instagram account and be done.
I follow and listen to what he says because he is a voice. A voice representing people I know and have stood by in a world full of critics and hate. Because Avenatti, as unlikely as it seemed at first, has grown to represent an American ideal built by our forefathers, one of inclusion, defense of freedom, righting wrongs, of truth, virtue, transparency and most importantly resistance.
Does this mean his new political aspirations will guarantee my vote? Absolutely not.
I belong to no political party, yet, I vote. I vote on measures, stances, specifics, and history. I’m an American journalist who believes the current “situation” is defunct and is only getting worse. A January 2018 Knight-Gallup survey of more than 19,000 U.S. adults shows that more than half of those polled, on both sides of the aisle, do not view the media as favorable. Yet, 84% of those same people believe the media plays a vital role in our democracy.
There’s a void here, and one that is not easily remedied when our administration has closed ranks, silences reporters, and refuses to answer questions with anything but fallacy and not-so-cleverly shrouded empty statements.
What’s missing is the voices of the people; not just those living under the rule of law, but those changing the laws.
Michael Avenatti, media darling and possible future political leader, is just that – a voice.
As a member of the press, I can’t help but stand in favor of a voice, whether it is on the left or right of the aisle.
Lucky for me, the reporter, Allan Smith, didn’t sensationalize my quotes and chose me to lead off within the piece. I believe he quoted me fairly and attributed respectfully. I might not have been so lucky with another reporter or news outlet.
My follower base and reach have grown steadily since the story ran. I received praise for my defense of Avenatti as a political figurehead while simultaneously sexualize and standing by my belief of the truth. A fine line indeed.
Sometimes the dies we cast give us snake eyes. Other times, you take the house.
If you’d like to read the full article, it can be found here.