COEUR d'ALENE - Mike Patrick, managing editor of the Coeur d'Alene Press, said he hates to be played.
That instinct is triggered each time a hate group such as the Aryan Nations organizes and participates in an event in North Idaho.
"I feel a very strong responsibility to let people know, good and bad, what's happening around you," Patrick said Friday, speaking to more than 40 people at a panel discussion hosted by the Kootenai County Democratic Club at the Iron Horse bar and grill in Coeur d'Alene.
One of the toughest parts of his job, he said, is deciding both whether and how to cover the activities of hate groups, "especially when we know that they're being perpetrated by people who really only want the publicity."
While it's a matter of avoiding giving the groups the publicity they crave, it's also important to make sure a local media outlet doesn't overstate the presence of the groups relative to others who call the area home.
Kootenai County human rights leader Tony Stewart has organized a series of weekly speakers this month who will address the issue of human rights. For the first in the series, Patrick was joined on the panel Friday with Press reporters Maureen Dolan and Jeff Selle.
Following on what Patrick said, Selle explained that he learned a lesson about reporting on hate during a protest outside a Coeur d'Alene hotel years earlier.
Then Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler got arrested at the protest for trespassing.
Selle took a photo of Butler getting arrested, and gathered quotes from Butler as he was being pushed into a cop car. He hustled back to the newsroom and cranked out a story.
That story then was picked up by the wire news service The Associated Press, giving Butler a lot of publicity.
Ben Wolfinger, who has since become Kootenai County's sheriff, called Selle on the phone after the story ran.
"He said, 'Jeff, just something to keep in the back of your head. Richard Butler paid a $75 fine, and he just got a front-page ad across the country.'"
Dolan wrote about the Westboro Baptist Church for The Press, choosing to focus her coverage more on the community's response instead of the actions of the group.
"The most important thing was the way the community rallied against them," Dolan said. "We saw people (from the community) who don't normally agree with each other standing up to that kind of hate together."