A Journalism 101 Refresher

Open Letter to KRIS-TV:

I can’t find the story on your website, so hope that means someone behind the scenes has already recognized your ethical error. But, just in case, I’m posting my concern on here in hopes that others will let you know that they agree. http://www.kristv.com/contact-us/.

When I was in journalism school back in the 1990’s they were still teaching that suicides, and suicide attempts, are rarely news. The saying was something along these lines: “If the mayor kills himself, it’s news. Short of that, it’s probably not.” I’ve heard this lesson is still a part of most media ethics classes these days, yet I find myself having to remind Corpus Christi media of that too often. Here I go again.

I hope you understand that, from an ethical perspective, you did a disservice to our community by reporting that emergency workers talked a man down Harbor Bridge today. Not only did your story add to this man’s psychological trauma, it could also lead someone else to attempt the same thing in order to attract similar attention.

I doubt it can be argued the public had an overwhelming, compelling interest in knowing about this incident — unless you left something out, of course. So, while our local emergency workers deserve great gratitude for their wonderful work, this is one of those good deeds that would have been better off unpublicized.

I hope your staff — and all who work in Corpus Christi’s newsrooms — will keep this in mind.

Oh yes, here are a couple of other ethical points that I’ve had occasion to write local media about a few too many times in recent years: 1. it’s rarely a good idea to release a rape victim’s name (unless the victim publicly identifies him or herself); 2. please don’t show the faces of people who have been injured in car wrecks, fires, etc. (unless they give you permission, of course).

Don Cudd