CNN reporter went to far
The role of the journalist, a member of the fourth estate of society, is to act as the gatekeeper of information to the public, a watchdog against the actions of ruthless government or private entities and the voice of the people.
With whatever flowery or corny spin you’d like to put on the duties of a journalist, that idealistic image is tarnished by the actions of out-of-touch news outlets. With this, I grew incredibly frustrated with the profession this weekend when I heard about how CNN has been treating their twitter war with President Donald Trump.
On Sunday, Trump shared a meme, or a frequently shared internet joke, on Twitter that depicted himself, during his days on WWE, tackling a person with a photoshopped picture of CNN’s logo over their head with the hashtag “FraudNewsCNN.” CNN released a statement the same day stating it’s a “sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters,” equating the tweet to being a threat against the network’s reporters.
All jokes aside, this is a cold war between Trump and CNN that is only unraveling and becoming worse as time goes on. Often, the President has taken to Twitter to criticize the news network for its reporting, primarily when they’re negative pieces about him. Say what you want about Trump’s ability to meme, but CNN took it farther than it needed to after it released the statement.
CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski reported on Wednesday that CNN had investigated the Reddit account of the original creator of the meme, which then led to the creator apologizing for supposedly inciting violence against reporters with the meme. However, he stated on his Twitter account the “apology came after CNN identified and reached out” to the creator. To confuse things more, Kaczynski later tweeted the creator had “posted his apology before (CNN) ever spoke him,” and “he called us afterwards to apologize further.”
The worst part about this debacle was how CNN took the apology. After the apology was posted online, in an article by Kaczynski, he wrote CNN won’t publish the creator’s private information because “he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology,” later saying he and his statement would “serve as an example to others not to do the same.” Then, he wrote, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
Going by what Kaczynski reported on and the sequence of events that unfolded, it only shows how out of touch CNN is with the people it has sworn to serve. I’m not sure who at CNN encouraged him to pursue obtaining information on the meme’s creator, but it’s definitely not the responsibility of the media to blackmail its “private citizens.”
What happened this week was how CNN wanted to make an example out of someone but ultimately showed they aren’t above seeking out dirty bits of revenge. If it can’t call out the president with much efficacy, then picking on a guy on Reddit will satiate them.
Kaczynski essentially “doxxed” the meme’s creator, which means he scoured the internet and other sources for as much personal information he could find on the creator with the intent to make it public. However, this changed when CNN got what it wanted, which was a fast apology after CNN doxxing, the Reddit user has already been in the public spotlight enough to cause damage to his reputation, but not as much as CNN could possibly inflict, what with their “right to publish” his information anytime they want.
This is blackmail of a private citizen who used his freedom of speech to create a satirical meme. From there, the news company exacerbated it as a threat of violence and essentially sought out to smear him, all the while lacking the self awareness to see why this would be a problem. CNN also broke one of the cardinal rules of journalism: don’t become a part of the news. CNN cast itself as the victim and shined the light on itself.
In response, other users on the internet have responded to this by creating variations of the original meme in question with an explosion of Trump and CNN jokes strewn across the internet. Given its unfair treatment of the original meme’s creator, I can only imagine CNN isn’t going to drop this anytime soon or it’ll get overwhelmed if it has to doxx all of those people making copycat memes.
In the meantime, I’m going to take it as another example of why modern journalism is falling apart on the national level. Local news can seem to stay away from the problems that blight the mainstream industry, but that doesn’t mean those signs should be downplayed. For now, we should hold CNN accountable for doxxing, an already uncouth action internet trolls usually take up to smear someone, and for blackmailing a citizen, the person a journalist is sworn to serve. The looming shadow of a media giant that can ruin a person’s reputation over a joke is definitely not the kind of relationship journalists should have with the average citizen.
-Jacob Runnels is a reporter for the Marysville Journal Tribune.
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