Jezebel’s Violation of Journalistic Standards Leads to Ethics Questions

Filed in Gather Politics News Channel by on November 14, 2012 0 Comments

It was a brief post on election night that has exploded in the past few hours. Jezebel, a Gawker-owned blog, posted a brief post consisting of a single paragraph. The post itself, “Twitter Racists React to ‘That Nigger’ Getting Reelected,” wasn’t overly impressive in its single paragraph. What was interesting was that along with that post was a sideshow with nearly 20 captured images from Twitter. These images captured anti-Obama tweets from teenagers. Not all the tweets are racist, unless you believe liberals who claim that mere criticism of Obama is racism. There were some comments after the article and then people moved on to another topic.

Then on Friday, the writer of the original post, Tracie Egan Morrissey, decided a little ‘self-congratulatory’ writing was necessary. This time instead of a single paragraph blog post, it was a full article, “Racist Teens Forced to Answer for Tweets About the ‘Nigger’ President.”

This article mentions the previous post and that Jezebel in general and Morrissey in particular, decided that free speech was reserved only for that speech which they at Jezebel approve. To that end, between election night and Friday when the article was written, Morrissey informed the schools of those students about the hate speech. This amounts to little less than stalking of teenagers by an adult who didn’t like what they said on their own Twitter pages, on their own time. Because Morrissey was unable to silence them directly, telling their schools seemed the next best approach.

The article attempts to justify the lack of journalistic integrity Morrissey showed by claiming that the students were acting as representatives of their schools because there was mention of sporting events and activities on their Twitter pages. That isn’t a valid argument because students rarely act as official representatives of their schools, and this is common knowledge. It’s no different from if someone commits a crime wearing the jersey of a professional sports team; no one thinks the team is responsible. The same is true in this case. It’s not about the students being poor representatives of their school; it’s about control and the suppression of expression.

These teenagers openly mentioned and vilified by Morrissey have the right to their opinion. They have the right to express that opinion via their Twitter accounts as per the terms of service for Twitter. More importantly, they have the right to make mistakes.

Morrissey clearly expected the adoration of the Jezebel crowd; that much is clear from the article. Mentioning telling the administrations of the schools that these students attended, Morrissey was clearly seeking for the students to be punished for their opinions. Unfortunately this has been successful in that several of the students have removed their Twitter pages.

One glaring issue here is that the act of researching these students, posting the name of their school, as well as contacting their schools trying to get them into trouble is clearly harassment if not stalking. These are children that were put at risk by a supposed adult.

Journalists have long self-censored articles where minors appear. In an article entitled Jezebel Violates Standard Codes Of Journalism Ethics By Harassing Minors, one critiques Morrissey and Jezebel for this unethical harassment of children; a career newspaper reporter, Lou Carlozo, was quoted as saying, “There is a big difference between the dumb things that kids do in the course of growing up and the harmful, damaging crimes a minor might commit that are a matter of public record.” Carlozo also said in a brief phone interview, “As a police reporter and later an editor, I always decided to name juveniles in a story on a case-by-case basis.”

One could also question the personal bias of Morrissey. While there were several overtly racist tweets against Obama in the mix, there wasn’t one mention of some of the racist tweets by black teenagers against Mitt Romney. There was also no mention of their schools being notified. This is clearly a double standard by Morrissey.

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I travel a lot, mostly Russia and Eastern Europe, I work a lot, mostly writing and occasionally building a website or a computer for someone. Other than that I'm probably reading with my antique Pomeranian curled up beside me.

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