CNN recently suspended political contributor Roland Martin after he posted controversial tweets during the Super Bowl.
If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) February 6, 2012
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) asked CNN to fire Martin for advocating “violence against gay people.”
CNN issued the following statement to the Washington Post:
“Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offensive. Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being.”
So demeaning language that is inconsistent with the values of CNN will not be tolerated. Maybe CNN has some skewed views on demeaning language. Or perhaps CNN forgot this rule after Dana Loesch and Erik Erickson, who are both CNN contributors, made inappropriate statements on their personal radio shows.
In January, Dana Loesch backed the Marines who urinated (warning: graphic footage) on dead members of the Taliban, saying “I’d drop trou [trousers] and do it too.” Erick Erickson showed his support for the tasing of an Occupy DC protester, saying, “watching a hippie protester get tased just makes my day.”
Is there something fundamentally different about comments made on Twitter than those made on a radio show? Radio recordings can be transcribed and spread around the Internet, so statements made through either platform can be widely shared. In addition, all three contributors used these mediums outside of their official role with CNN. If anything, CNN should take more responsibility for Erickson’s comments, as WSB (750 AM), the station his show is on, is affiliated with CNN Radio.
Or was it the outrage of a major organization that brought Martin down? This leads to a question of bias in the media. If CNN swayed to the desires of GLAAD in this situation, how do we know that CNN won’t make decisions about what to cover based on the interests of other organizations?
Alternatively, there may be benefits from having contributors make controversial remarks. Richard Sambrook, former director of the BBC Global News Division, noted, “in the new media age transparency is what delivers trust,” and “the emergence of news is as important as the delivering of the news itself.” By revealing their opinions, contributors expose their biases, adding an element of transparency to their reporting.
Media outlets have not quite figured out how to balance objectivity and journalists’ use of social media, but it is vital that the main principles behind whatever social media policies are implemented are consistently applied to all aspects of journalists’ behavior outside the newsroom.