When a Missouri man, 29 year-old Ryan Ferguson, was freed after an appeals court vacated his conviction for murder, anchor/reporter Melanie Moon from St. Louis CW affiliate KPLR-TV was seen by other reporters hugging Ferguson's father following a news conference. As Jim Romenesko and other have been reporting, that has sparked a vigorous debate over the appearance of media bias.
Moon got into a Twitter exchange over the issue, saying "In some cases media biases, based in a strong sense of right & wrong, serve the public good!" When questioned about the role of the media in determining right and wrong, Moon countered by saying, "law schools are supposed to teach legal ethics but it doesn't always work out that way, does it?" and "NO, this most definitely is about innocence & prosecutorial misconduct! Look @facts!! #falsleyaccused"
At times, reporters ethically demonstrate both compassion and impartiality. The RTDNA Code of Ethics specifically says in its section on fairness:
FAIRNESS: Professional electronic journalists should present the news fairly and impartially, placing primary value on significance and relevance.
Professional electronic journalists should:
- Treat all subjects of news coverage with respect and dignity, showing particular compassion to victims of crime or tragedy.
- Exercise special care when children are involved in a story and give children greater privacy protection than adults.
- Seek to understand the diversity of their community and inform the public without bias or stereotype.
- Present a diversity of expressions, opinions, and ideas in context.
- Present analytical reporting based on professional perspective, not personal bias.
- Respect the right to a fair trial.
But at what point do compassion and bias cross a line? We want to hear what you think. Weigh in on the issue in the comments below.