Journalists Can Learn From Wendy Bell

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FTVLive was the FIRST to tell you about WTAE Anchor Wendy Bell's racist Facebook post that eventually got her fired from the station. 

Since her firing, Bell seems to feel she did nothing wrong and it appears she hasn't learned a thing. But, for others working in TV, who's ego might be a bit smaller than Bell's, this is a teachable moment. 

WFAA (Dallas) Anchor Ron Corning wrote a Facebook post that everyone that works in TV news should read. 

Corning hit the preverbal nail right on the head with his take. Here's what he had to say: 

Popular long-time Pittsburgh anchor Wendy Bell has been fired for a FB post on her station endorsed fan page. The same kind of page as this one, where I'm posting about her departure.

Her story should serve as a teachable moment for all of us in television journalism. The emphasis is on JOURNALISM. The same standards apply here, and frankly should apply in our everyday lives. In her case she made presumptions about the race of mass shooting suspects ahead of any official suspect descriptions released by police. Beyond that she crafted an observational commentary on race that was tone deaf at best.

Her post seemed to lack any regard for the most important of the 5 basic tenets of journalism, Humanity.

Journalists should do no harm. The truth of what we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.

This FB thing can be a bit of a trap as we leverage a social media audience around not only our station brand but our personal brand. None of the editorial practices that we've all come to expect in a newsroom exist, at least not yet. While we use FB as a tool to promote and share the work we do on TV, it's also an effective way to engage people in conversations about social issues. To that end much good can come. But the pressure to get more shares, likes, and comments can inspire some to 'push the envelope'. The more 'controversial' or 'transparent' a post the more likely it is to be liked, and the higher your ranking goes.

But when posts lack the basic facts delivered with humanity that other tenet of journalism comes into play. Accountability. And your tenure or popularity matter not.

For Wendy Bell it was a perfect storm. For the rest of us a cautionary tale.