As journalists, we never expect to become part of the story. In fact, our training teaches us to be as far removed from the story as possible in order to make it fair and ethical. But this week we did become the story. KPLC morning anchor Britney Glaser received a card that shook her, emotionally, to the core. She brought it to the attention of management and asked if she could address it in her private blog. We approved her request. Since then, her blog has garnered thousands of comments, shares, and likes – as well as both state and national attention.
It wasn't an easy decision for us to decide to address the letter in a public forum. Myself, along with my general manager, regional news director, my news management team and members of the KPLC newsroom had many conversations about how to do it – and whether we should do it at all. And to be perfectly honest, we didn't all agree.
As members of the media, we get emails, cards and phone calls every day. Some of it is positive. Sometimes it's negative. The tremendous and rapid growth of social media has helped us send our message to more people than ever. But it's also created a public forum for people to be critical. Sometimes it's an anchor's appearance. Sometimes it's a misspelled word. Sometimes it's a factual error. And I'm okay with that.
What I'm not okay with is when it gets personal. Every person in the KPLC newsroom is a journalist who dedicates their life to public service and helping the community. I have members of this staff who slept at the station for a week during Hurricane Rita so that they could be on air for hours alerting the public about threats to their livelihood. When breaking news happens these are people who drive toward danger instead of away from it. Who give up so much of their personal time, and quite often their safety, to keep the rest of us safe and informed. During the historic flooding in Baton Rouge many members of the newsroom at WAFB lost their own homes to flooding. Yet they still came to work to help tell the stories of tragedy, hope and heroism. This is what we do as journalists.
So I ask that the next time you fire up that laptop or grab that pen and paper that you will consider the impact of your words. We may work every day to remain unbiased and fair, but we have families, too. But most importantly, we have hearts, just like you do.
My name is Jenelle Shriner and I'm the News Director at KPLC. I will gladly accept all cards, phone calls and emails and I always appreciate your feedback about this television station, our on-air product, my employees and the way we conduct our business. But please, let's leave our families out of it.