Sunday, June 5, 2011

Doing Harm to Journalism in Franklin County

Kim Wagoner did her paper in particular and journalism in general a disservice yesterday at a rally in Rocky Mount meant to show discontent with Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt, whose actions appear to have contributed to the killing of a young woman by one of his deputies last week.

Wagoner, according to this report in a Roanoke daily newspaper, interjected herself into a speech at the rally by organizer Joe Stanley, questioning him during a speech he was making, all because, she is quoted as saying, "I'm here to get to the truth." She could have done that after the speech was done, one-on-one with Stanley, as is normally and properly done. By interrupting the speech, she injected herself into the fifth through 10th paragraphs of the story where she did not belong.

The truth she would do well to pursue is whether the sheriff is capable of doing his job and whether his actions contributed to the death of the woman.

The story says Wagoner is a "former Republican political campaigner" and Stanley has been a "Democratic strategist." That would make for a good private conversation and some feisty reporting and questioning. It makes for embarrassment of a profession--mine--when the Republican browbeats the Democrat during his speech, claiming First Amendment rights. That's bullshit.

Partisan politics has a place--too big a place--in our society, but this was not one of them. She would have been fine asking hard questions of Stanley after he finished his speech. But if this report is correct--and that is an important caveat--then she was wrong and should apologize to her readers and to Stanley.

This is not about whether the sheriff's actions were proper. It's about whether the newswoman's actions were in accordance with her job description. Franklin County's newspapers have a colorful history of doing things their own way and there's a certain charm to that independence in many circumstances. This is not one of those circumstances.

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1 comment:

  1. It's sounds like more than one resignation is in order...