The Other Side of the Story

by - October 19, 2012

A few weeks ago I posted a video of a news anchor standing up and calling out a viewer who sent her an email that attacked her weight. Since then that video has gone viral. The anchor has even appeared on CBS News This Morning promoting her anti-bullying standpoint.

But there's another side to this story. There are those out there who would call this anchor the bully, or at the very least question her journalistic ethics.

When first confronted by the possibility that this anchor may in fact have turned into a bully over one email, I scoffed. I told myself, these people just don't understand what it's like to get countless emails and calls criticizing everything you do or say. But the possibility made me think.

As a producer, would I have given one of my anchors more than 4 minutes to chastise one viewer over an email they received? Not likely.

I think so many journalists reposted and liked this video because in all honesty it's what we wish we could do, and given the chance we all would do it without hesitation. But that doesn't change the fact that journalistically, what this anchor did was not ethical.

I find myself asking how a producer justified giving up four minutes of their show over hurt feelings. Sure, they preface the tirade by saying it's bullying prevention month, but the segment only devotes 30 or so seconds to actual bullying. Instead, this anchor talks about how hurt she was by this one email.

So why this email? I have a hard time believing it's the first mean viewer feedback she's gotten, and I'm sure someone has referenced her weight before now. If not, she should consider herself lucky. My anchors, reporters and even producers get a constant stream of rude emails, phone calls and actual snail mail. You read it, choose whether you want to respond to it, and then you move on. End of story. Never would it cross my mind -- seriously, anyway -- to call out our viewers on the air.

Do I believe this anchor should be upset over the email she received? Absolutely.

Do I think she handled the situation correctly? Not exactly.

Do I still wish I could have four minutes to give our mean viewers the what for? Without a doubt.

Would I ever do that? Definitely not.

When we give in to our critics, those people who only contact us to cast stones, we become no better than them, sacrificing our journalistic integrity in the process. And if you lose that integrity, you lose all credibility, and without credibility a journalist is worthless.

We should never let our critics determine our worth.

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  1. Man, I agree with you wholeheartedly, Ashton. Taking four minutes of air time to settle a personal score is highly inappropriate, does a disservice to the viewer and destroys credibility. It's very easy for a producer to play God and push an agenda. I saw it happen at places I worked and I always gave myself a check up from the neck up to make sure I wasn't guilty of it. I'm proud of you for stating this position, dear friend.

    1. We're actually doing a series on bullying next month. I think this anchor should have channeled her hurt feelings and anger into a project like that.

  2. The best thing to do with emails like that is delete-and-forget.

    1. I agree, but after you get so many sometimes it's hard to just shake it off. And depending on what you're going through at the time can also determine how one particular email affects you.

      Here's an example: my main female anchor had to put down one of her dogs not too long ago for circumstances other than old age or sickness. This dog had been a part of her family for close to 10 years, so naturally it was a rough time for her. One viewer took it upon herself to write to her about how she could at least pretend to be interested in the stories she was telling. My anchor did respond to that email, and while she wasn't necessarily ugly, she was very blunt and to the point. I know that's very different from going on an on-air rampage, but sometimes you can't just forget.

  3. I did not think there was something wrong with it until you pointed it out. Good point. What I admire about her statement, though, is that she did not bash other body types (which almost everyone else who say "love your body, love your curves" does). But I think calling out a hater ON AIR is too far and too personal. Do you think it was done to be talked about?

    1. I think it's shedding light on the issue of bullying, and opening people's eyes to the fact that not only children are the targets or the bulliers. However, I do think she could have handled it differently and in a way that doesn't make her look like a person who can't handle her critics.

      I think the real question is whether or not her segment will do more harm than good. Either it will inspire people to work harder to put a stop to bullying, or it will do nothing more than shed an unflattering light on all journalists.