Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The miracle of convergence

Bad news, newspaper folks: When you let TV stations pick your frontpage stories, you're letting TV stations set your standards for news and news practice. Sure you want to go down that road?

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher faces firing for posting derogatory comments about students on Facebook, while four others have been disciplined for posts involving “poor judgment and bad taste,” spokeswoman Nora Carr said Tuesday.

Stop press! And how did this alarming situation come about?

WCNC, the Observer's news partner, turned up questionable pages on the social networking site by searching for people who identified themselves as CMS employees.

Oops. Don't tell me it's Sweeps Month again. Let's see if we can get this straight: TV station, eyes on the ratings, decides to go trolling in Facebook for Teachers Behaving Badly. And then it ...

Reporter Jeff Campbell of WCNC said he showed district officials pages involving seven CMS teachers.

Oh, great.

This wouldn't go anywhere as a privacy case, I suspect, because Facebook isn't private; post a picture of yourself summoning Great Cthulhu with the Nekkid Square Dance and you're going to have a hard time claiming it was a secret. But that doesn't mean our intrepid reporter is in the clear. He didn't create the pictures or the postings, but he created the offense -- the harm they purportedly cause. Getting drunk and striking racy poses with your teacher pals after work isn't inherently harmful, in the way that taking bribes or sleeping with your minor students create harm just by happening. It's only harmful when the pictures go public (if then). This story strikes me as the moral equivalent of hanging out at the bar where teachers drink, getting a few photos of teachers nose-down and shopping the results to the school board: Look What Our "Role" "Models" Are Up To Now!

TV stations do this stuff because -- well, because they're TV stations. A couple times a year, they get very directly rewarded for having lots of eyes on screen, so it pays them to have really low to nonexistent journalistic standards during those times. Why newspapers go along is a mystery. If anyone wants to argue the opposing case, please feel free, but I don't see the newspaper getting much out of this except sleaze without the gratification of originality.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Strayhorn said...

The original version of this story had one of the teachers referring to his/her students as "chitlins" and this was allegedly racist.

Wait, what? What's racist about eating offal?

Then it was revealed that the comment was about "chilrens" which is a Southernism I've used myself on occasion.

So, two demerits here: a manufactured story and a botched attempt to drag race into it.

8:24 AM, November 13, 2008  
Anonymous Andy Bechtel said...

"Teachers gone wild on the Internet! Are your children safe? The exclusive story at 11."

9:06 AM, November 13, 2008  

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