An Appearance of Bias

Another St. Louis media figure bites the dust over a social media posting. In late 2011, a local radio host who didn’t understand how Twitter works, was suspended for obscene replies to listener tweets.

Now, in 2013, a veteran TV newsman has been fired for doing what he apparently believed was the right thing to do. According to stltoday.com, Larry Conners had been “encouraged to write ‘personal observations of news events’ and decided to write a Facebook post about his IRS problems.”

Because of recent stories of IRS actions against political conservatives, and because Conners had conducted a tough interview of the president, Conners commented on Facebook about his personal dealings with the IRS. KMOV and its owners deemed that posting improper and chose to terminate his employment.

The station’s general manager claimed that Conners’ Facebook comment creates an appearance of bias. This is the same station whose new 10:00 p.m. male co-anchor is the radio play-by-play voice of the St. Louis Rams, a team that has been engaged in recent confrontations with local taxpayer funded agencies over stadium issues.

I would not be the first person to point out that there could be an appearance of bias in any KMOV reporting on the Rams (on the field and off).

My suggestion for managers and owners of media outlets is to explain clearly to your employees where the line is in social media. If you want your reporters and on-air personnel to engage with readers, viewers and listeners, give detailed guidance.

My suggestion for employees in any job, anywhere, is to be careful what you post on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites. Especially if you are an older, highly compensated employee in a high profile position.

In this instance, there is an appearance of bias by KMOV management against employees whose termination might positively affect the bottom line. I’m not saying that’s a true fact, but it’s my perception. And you know what media folks say about perception.

 

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