Media Accountability: Why Roland S Martin Should Apologize to Shirley Sherrod

For all that some are trying to make Shirley Sherrod’s firing into a greater discussion about race, this is more a lesson in media studies than race relations. Sherrod’s story reveals the fundamental and collective power the media wields over all facets of society, in particular politics, and total lack of accountability for journalist and media personalities that permeates the body politic.

As someone who is certified in crisis communications, I’m aware of need for Agencies and organizations to be mindful of the media’s power but not blindly reactionary. When organizations fail at this key part of media management, their feet are held to the fire. The NAACP will and should pay dearly for its decision to release a statement condemning Sherrod for her speech without listening to the full audio (which, by the way, was delivered  in front of a local chapter of their organization). The Obama administration is also rightfully feeling the burn for its regrettable decision to force a resignation from Mrs. Sherrod.

But who holds media personalities like Andrew Breitbart who edited the tape of Sherrod in order to promote an erroneous message accountable for their actions. Who will hold Fox News responsible for its dogged promotion of Breitbart’s lie. And who will hold CNN correspondent and journalist Roland S Martin accountable condemning Sherrod before he had all the facts?

The answer is no one. When it comes to Breitbart and Fox News, we’ve come to expect blatantly biased behavior. However, Martin is an employee of CNN, a channel that aims to be a credible news source. That calls Martin’s comments into question, and, further the role and greater responsibility of journalists to police themselves and each other. Not only did Martin support condemning Sherrod he also defended his position by citing the status quo. Martin pointed out that when you’re “in the midst of a political firestorm” you have to know that your comments can be used against you. Nevermind the fact that Sherrod gave the speech back in March prior to the NAACP’s dispute with the Tea party, which, I think most people would agree is at the root of Sherrod’s firing.

To CNN’s credit, Campbell Brown and guest David Gergen were hard on Roland Martin during Brown’s show today. They quickly poo pooed his attempt to divert the conversation into mucky raceland bringing the conversation squarely back to where it belonged: on the complete and utter mishandling of this woman and her statements by Martin among other people.

Martin is certainly not the only journalist to pontificate on a situation about which he does not have all the facts. But that does’t mean he should be given a pass. At some point we have to hold members of the media responsible for what they say, especially those who claim they’re journalists not just opinion pundits. Until that happens, the collective role and credibility of the media will remain in question.


Media Struggles With How to Handle Alvin Greene

The Democratic primary winner Alvin Greene has been a tough interview subject for the media to handle. Sure most reporters and journalists have stories about their most difficult interviews, butI doubt many have ever faced anything like Alvin Greene.

Greene, an unemployed former veteran who lives with his mother yet was able to somehow come up with the $10K fee to file for candidacy is a strange character. He is barely able to string together a thought and doesn’t seem to be aware of the magnitude of what’s he’s accomplished (for lack of a better word).

To many, the fact that the media has to give Greene a platform is frustrating. Nevertheless, he is the winner of the primary and deserves the same media attention (and scrutiny) provided to other candidates. Overall, I think that journalists and pundits have done a good job interviewing Greene–balancing their disbelief with Greene’s right to be treated with dignity.

Keith Olbermann elected NOT to acknowledge during his interview with Greene that anything was amiss with Greene’s behavior or speech pattern. For all intents and purposes, Olbermann allowed Greene’s deficiencies to lie bare without putting forth any real effort to expose them.

On CNN, Don Lemon took a different approach and tackled Greene’s strange behavior directly.  The video is embedded in a pretty interesting post over at Gawker. Lemon asks Greene directly how he responds to claims that he has a mental impairment. As the very brief interview goes on Greene seems to fade in and out, finally, Lemon asks him if he’s okay.

The Big Picture also interviewed Greene and their approach was a combination of letting Greene do the work of revealing his flaws and not completely letting him off the hook. Two minutes into watching this video I was completely exhausted.

Greene is a test of how the media handles what I like to call “the reality of people.” There have been many times when I’ve been watching an interview and wondering if the journalist sees its subject the way that I do. You wonder if the journalist is consciously ignoring the elephant in the room or if they simply don’t see it from their vantage point.

In the case of Greene, there is no mistake that this man is not qualified or mentally stable enough to lead in any space, in particular a public one.  However, it is interesting to see the media struggle to determine whether to call it how they see it or let the public come to its own conclusion.


Candidate Uses Creative Ad to Announce Bid for Senator Boxer’s Seat

Everyone’s favorite time of the year is approaching–election season. Soon we will all be bombarded with ads by candidates we’ve never heard of and candidates we’ve already heard too much from. I’ll be profiling and analyzing the ads and PR strategies candidates use throughout the season.

Micky Kaus is my first subject. He used a very creative ad to announce his bid for candidacy. I found it to be pretty impressive. Take a look:

I think this ad is effective because he found a great way to mention Senator Boxer’s financial advantage–a not-so-thinly veiled way to emphasize that she’s not exactly like the rest of us. Plus he laid out his positions fairly specifically, a tactic a lot of voters will find appealing. Further, the entire ad is framed around his personal experiences in California. Finally, it’s funny!

What may come back to bite Mr. Kaus is the fact that he plays up, however slightly his dissatisfaction with his party. That’s smart as we’re in the midst of poll-damaging crisis like the BP oil spill and the current Israeli attack on Flotilla. But if Democratic approval ratings go up before the end of summer there may be a need pull back that particular emphasis.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the ad is a revamp of an ad created for the late Paul Wellstone back in 1990. Klaus talks more about that (and much much more) in The Huffington Post.




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