Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reporters Are Humans, Too

Perri Camella

When it comes to journalism, there is a set of ethical codes that maps out what is ethical and unethical to do while reporting; it’s basically a journalist’s bible. It is sometimes difficult to put a finger on what is showing human emotion and what is crossing the line of ethical writing, however.

Anna Song, a reporter/anchor at KATU, apparently crossed that line while reporting on the murder of two young girls in Oregon City, Ore. Ashley Pond, 12, and Miranda Gaddis, 13, were found in the backyard of Ward Weaver III after disappearing. Song spent months covering the story and talking to family members and friends. According to an article by LA times, she developed a care for them and their families and even said herself that they touched her life during those months. When the memorial was hosted for the girls, Song spoke heartfelt and sympathetic words.

Song was ridiculed for her supposed unethical behavior and some felt that her speech at the memorial was unethical due to a conflict of interest. This article gives tips on how reporters can avoid conflicts of interest and describes a scenario where a journalist is covering a city’s mayor. It says that it’s okay to grow to like that person and wish them the best, but it’s not okay to let feelings influence the way the news is covered.  It also goes on to say that sources often try to influence journalists in order to get more positive coverage. According to the article,  “If your feelings begin to color your coverage of [a story], or render you unable to write about [it] critically when necessary, then clearly there’s a conflict of interest.

 Image via ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu


The murder of the two girls in Oregon had already been reported on when Song gave her speech at the memorial. She had been covering the story for months, so how was her sympathy and heartfelt words a conflict of interest? Wouldn’t any reporter who covered a story like so feel something for the girls and their families? Weaver had already made himself a prime suspect and was in jail for an unrelated rape charge, so the question of whether or not he was guilty was not present.

Pond and Gaddis’ parents had nothing to gain from building a relationship with Song or having her speak at the memorial. The entire city and everyone who knew about the incident were sympathetic themselves, Pond didn’t add to the sadness or tragedy of the situation. No one was trying to influence her in order to get more coverage.

Sympathy and feelings in general are what make humans. Song was not reporting or on the job when she spoke at the memorial; that was her time to do what she wished, and she chose to speak from her heart to the girls and to those that were affected by the loss. Song was affected by the incident just like the town was, so when did being a reporter mean that you had to hide your emotions? Song served as a reminder to the public that you can be a great reporter and journalist while also showing respect and not being afraid to show your emotions, off the clock.

Click here to read an article that supports this idea and defends Song, or click here to read a follow-up article which includes Weaver's letters to one of the girls' sisters.

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