Using social media doesn’t make you a journalist

 

thethirdeyeThe problem with social media is that too often it launches rumors and half-truths disguised as news, as well as providing a platform for self-appointed “citizen journalists” who would rather whip up a firestorm than tell the truth.

I am a journalist who pridefully seeks and reports the truth. Spreading lies and half-truths is not my game, but I’ve seen others both locally and elsewhere play it without an ethical bone in their body.

Local “video journalist” Don Allen last week used his Facebook page to falsely ‘report’ that I was “escorted” from the May 2 Minneapolis NAACP special elections at NorthPoint. After being assured by NAACP officials that I’d have access to interview anyone afterwards, I chose to leave the meeting room where the voting took place. I was never barred from doing my job, nor did I leave the building during that time.

However, Allen refused to fact check but instead ran to his computer or whatever device he uses. He also conveniently forgot to disclose that he ran for one of the NAACP positions and lost.

After someone called me about what they saw on Facebook that same night, this reporter emailed Allen for a retraction and apology. The following is an excerpt of my demand:

Dear Mr. Allen: I am strongly requesting that you immediately delete my name…because you reported erroneously. I expect this action to be taken immediately.

Allen’s response: “Thank you for concern about my Facebook page. Best, Donald Allen.” Unless I missed something, these eight words are neither a retraction nor an apology.

This isn’t the first time Allen used amnesiac reporting; he once went after the Minneapolis Public Schools big time, but neglected to tell his audience that this came after MPS denied his proposal to work for them. Never in my five-decades-plus journalism career in both radio and print, in Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan have I practice vengeance-type reporting.

Over the years I have refused assignments because I was too close to the subject, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to be as objective as a reporter should always be. I firmly adhere to personal and professional ethical standards, and I have worked too hard and too long to turn back now.

My reporting, at times, has angered some folk. Some to this day have chosen not to speak to me, which is their loss since I have moved on to other stories and projects. I also have been mentioned on Facebook and other social media, but frankly this is the first time I’ve been posted as part of a lie.

I often advise people not to believe everything you see on social media and to always consider the source. Allen’s blatant misstating of what really happened May 2 at NorthPoint is just another warning to be aware of those who buys a video camera and a laptop, then crown themselves a journalist. If it was that easy, I wouldn’t have gone to college, took journalism classes, including a couple of ethics courses.

Finally, when asked did I expect Allen to apologize, I sadly didn’t expect him to because it’s hard to admit you’re wrong when you prefer doing mountains out of molehills-type stories. It’s also hard for so-called journalists to do ethical reporting, especially when true facts get in the way.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.