It all started with a few Tweets [that have since been deleted].
St. Louis TV anchor/reporter Melanie Moon has been attracting a lot of buzz in recent days due to her behavior while reporting on Ryan Ferguson's release from prison.
My goal for this post isn't to recap the story. It's to recognize the obligation reporters have to the people and equally to fellow journalists.
There has been a lot of great articles highlighting the importance of this discussion. So here are a few links to get you caught up:
Being a young/pro-hugging/aspiring [humanitarian] journalist myself, I felt compelled to email Melanie my views and why this conversation is important to me.
My name is Nate, and I'm currently a student at the Missouri School of Journalism.
First off, I just want to acknowledge the fact that all journalists make mistakes. We are only human, and that's okay.
I've been reading about your "behavior" these past few days, and it's definitely been a conversation topic in some of my classes. Joy Mayer is actually my Participatory Journalism professor and editor at the Columbia Missourian.
Please understand that I wholeheartedly agree that hugging sources in certain situations is more than okay.
To be completely honest, this past summer I did a story on a woman I grew close to. The last time I saw her she was undergoing kidney dialysis at the treatment center. Last month, she passed away, and sometimes I still wonder if I should've hugged her that day.
[Ms. Almeta Crayton, thank you]
So with the hugging issue aside, it's the lack of transparency that upsets me the most.
Again, there are countless accounts of journalists getting the facts wrong. Just look at the Boston bombing's initial coverage. However, the media outlets that got facts wrong, made sure they acknowledged their errors and noted the corrections.
My goal here isn't to lecture you on media ethics or transparency.
I just want you to understand the importance of transparency, especially for journalists such as you and I.
I designed a specific interest area within in my major, humanitarian journalism. And trust me, I get backlash from different students and faculty quite frequently.
I'm automatically ruled out of the journalism game and tossed into the nonprofit sector because I believe it's important to develop relationships with sources and that human rights are not subjective.
I'll be the first to argue against the myth of objectivity, but the foundation of that argument rests on transparency.
Incidents such as the initial Boston bombing coverage ruin the credibility of "The Media" as a whole. Good journalism still exists, but good journalism is also dependent on good journalists.
Therefore, even though the hugging issue isn't even an issue, it's been dragged into the conversation by various others. To me, this further obligates you to set the record straight with your audience because you're representing a different approach to journalism, which can't afford unethical behavior to be associated with it.
Melanie, you are young, attractive and have a good-size following. Do you really believe that admitting a factual error will ruin your entire credibility? Personally, I welcome anyone who notices an error I made to inform me as soon as possible. That's the beauty of the digital age, a more efficient flow of information. We produce better journalism this way and a more informed public.
As far as your audience goes, they deserve transparency the most. Just look at a few Tweets from your supporters:
Notice the Twit pic of comments in this one:
And the lack of understanding of this woman:
Please note that a lack of understanding isn't intended to be an insult. We all have our areas of expertise, but that's your job here, to help make sense of these issues for your audience.
Just think, if you would have simply acknowledge the mistake instead of deleting the Tweets, most of this could have been avoided. Chances are you would have gained respect and credibility for owning up to it.
This isn't yesterday's news, and it's not too late to clear things up. It's actually important you still do.
I ask you to do so as an aspiring [humanitarian] journalist and as a member of the public at large.
Don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions or suggestions on how to be more transparent. I realize it's a ruthless world, especially in this industry.
I want to be part of the solution here, not the problem.
This post originally appeared on nateanton.com as a blog post. Photo credit: Melanie Moon on KPLR's Facebook Page