Barbara Cochran comments on WVII on-air resignations
Michaels, who had been at the station for six years, said Tuesday there was an expectation by upper management to do somewhat unbalanced news, politically, in general, to satisfy ownership or advertiser concerns.
Mike Palmer, general manager and vice president at WVII and sister station WFVX (Channel 22), disagreed, saying management plays no active role in the day-to-day news operations of his station’s staff. “I don’t go to story meetings. I don’t assign stories. I am not involved,” he said Wednesday. Bob Steele, a former University of Maine journalism professor who went on to spend almost 20 years at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., and build the journalism school’s ethics program, said while the joint resignation of Michaels and Consiglio on live TV may be new, their struggle with higher-ups is not. “Tensions between management and newsroom journalists over values are not new. They’ve always existed in TV, newspapers and radio, and in this digital era as well,” said Steele, who is now professor of journalism ethics at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and director of the school’s Prindle Institute for Ethics. “They can often involve competing purposes and loyalties. “The key is to protect the journalistic independence of the newsroom to make sure the legitimate business values of an organization do not undermine, nor conflict with the journalistic values of the newsroom.” And do so in a way in which the station or paper’s ability to make money isn’t compromised or harmed. “This era is one in which the business models for newspapers have shattered and the models for network and local TV have also changed dramatically due to the Internet, changing consumer habits, and a different ad mix and base and how advertisers use the media,” Steele said. “So it’s a very challenging period, but that is never an excuse for compromising the journalistic ethics and quality of the organization and the work it produces.” According to Cochran and Steele, management shouldn’t be heavily involved in the day-to-day news operations. “Certainly a GM has overall responsibility for the station and is the supervisor of those who they hire for the newsroom, but he or a publisher shouldn’t unduly influence the news coverage of their newspapers or stations,” said Steele, who was WVII’s news director for three years (1976-78) after being a reporter at WLBZ (Channel 2) from 1973 to 1975. Palmer, however, has become directly involved in the station’s news operations more than once, calling a meeting to emphasize balance when reporting, particularly on controversial issues such as gay marriage and politics. Peter Farrar, a master control operator at the station for the last year, says he has no personal experience with Palmer being involved in the news operation, but did say that regarding the few instances he’s aware of, Palmer only became involved to stress and promote balance. “I never saw it. I never heard of it, really,” Farrar said Wednesday. “And Cindy never said anything to me in relation to feeling like her hands were tied journalistically here. I never really talked to Tony.” Another current WVII employee, who asked to remain anonymous, supported Farrar’s position, noting in an email to the BDN on Wednesday that, “The only time there were issues with politically motivated stories was when the reporters were presenting stories with only one side of the issue being represented, and they were told that BOTH sides needed to be presented.” David Esch, a former producer who worked at WVII for three months last year, said Wednesday that he had resigned because of what he considered questionable journalistic practices, citing one story involving a political candidate talking about the candidate’s views on gay marriage. The day after the story aired, Esch said Palmer called a meeting to tell staff members that any story including a controversial subject like gay marriage would not be run without including representatives of both sides giving their takes on the issue. While she didn’t disagree with the reason for the meeting, Cochran says it could have been handled much better. “That should ultimately come from the news director, and not the GM, who could have talked to [the news director], and then she could have talked to her staff,” Cochran said. “At any TV station, the GM and news director have to be able to communicate and get along. “The news department should be protected from those outside pressures in order to safeguard its credibility. If she felt like she was constantly undercut and just not able to carry out the editorial mission as she thought best, she was just in a bad situation.” Full story: http://bangordailynews.com/2012/11/22/news/bangor/wvii-on-air-resignations-spotlight-media-issues-journalism-broadcast-experts-say/print/ Attribution: By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff Posted Nov. 22, 2012, at 5:30 p.m.
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