Reporter learns difficult lesson about Facebook rants

 

Earlier this month we looked at an incident involving a reporter covering the Chick-Fil-A protest for his paper in Florida. Reporter Mark Krzos had a public Facebook profile. On it, he shared his liberal views, affinity for the Democratic Party and its candidates, and his strong dislike of Chick-Fil-A. He appeared to go so far as to support blocking Chick-Fil-A outlets from being permitted to exist in Boston, for instance.

A staff writer for the News-Press, a Gannett newspaper in Fort Myers, Florida, Krzos reported that — unlike other reports — he’d seen and heard horrific things at the Chick-Fil-A eat-in he’d covered. He began his discussion of this by saying:

RE: Chik-fil-A controversy
I have never felt so alien in my own country as I did today while covering the restaurant’s supporters. The level of hatred, unfounded fear and misinformed people was astoundingly sad. I can’t even print some of the things people said.

The first comment came from another journalist named Joseph Anthony who listed his job as “Anchor/Reporter at WBBH NBC2/ WZVN ABC7.” His comment was “agreed.” A lively comment thread ensued. Krzos claimed that the people he met were talking mean about “immigrants.” When someone offered up something about bigots, he responded “It was like broken records of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and a recitation of half-truths and outright lies.” Krzos added:

Such a brave stand … eating a goddamn sandwich.

Various people “liked” these comments, including some more reporters. His friends begged him to print the goods and he said he couldn’t because it was just too vile and, well, the people wouldn’t give him their names. People suggested he just refer to the rampant “racist and homophobic slurs” and another friend wrote, “I’ll be on the side with scientists, hippies, NORMAL white people, fellow black folk, mexicans (and street gangs), gays , and technology vs. Jim Bob and Bobby Sue and all the toothless rednecks that REALLY hate America.” Mark Krzos “liked” that comment.

And so on and so forth.

We never found out how his story turned out because his editor didn’t let him write it. Now, if Krzos actually had the goods to back up his report, I would hope any editor would force him to write it. I had a hard time believing it, but I wasn’t there. If these things actually had happened, they should have been written about. Maybe his advocacy against Chick-Fil-A prior to the eat-in had nothing to do with what he claimed he saw.

The update for today is that Romenesko reports that Krzos resigned after meeting with his editor at the paper.

It’s an unpleasant thing to read. Yes, Krzos lost the trust of his readers. He most likely lost the trust of his bosses as well. He publicly made some extreme claims and was unable to substantiate them. That’s never a good thing to hear about a reporter.

Still, one hopes that a reporter might be given a second chance. Besides, we still don’t know if his story would have been more balanced than his Facebook rant. Every reporter is entitled to a little freak out amongst friends — what counts is what ends up in the story.

There’s much we don’t know. Perhaps this was part of a pattern. Or perhaps Krzos senses he might be better suited to advocacy instead of journalism.

But I hope the incident serves as a good reminder about how we want to treat all of our readers with respect — no matter how much we may disagree with them — and work to avoid echo chambers that confirm our biases. I hope that when we make claims — particularly defamatory ones — that we source them very carefully.

And, yes, maybe it’s just a good reminder about keeping certain conversations private.

Photo of a hater via Shutterstock.

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