Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Media's Effect in the Firing of Shirley Sherrod

By Carolyn Maroon

I’m sure just about everyone is familiar with the story about the firing of Shirley Sherrod from the United States Department of Agriculture as Director of Rural Development for Georgia. The firing was based on an edited tape of a speech that Sherrod gave in March to the NAACP, which has stirred up a lot of negative emotions and outrage. The story is largely about the danger of jumping to conclusions and media bias.

It all started with conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who posted an edited part of the speech without allegedly viewing the entire speech or doing any investigating or research beforehand. Breitbart has stated that his intent was to bring the speech to the public in an effort to expose the hypocrisy of the NAACP. Breitbart is just the latest example of “journalists” who are reckless, and the end result is a blow to the credibility of journalism - a bad thing for society as a whole.

More and more these days we see media outlets and reporters with agendas and strong political leanings. The media is very powerful and reporting the news in a slanted fashion can be dangerous if we blindly believe what we read or listen to without thinking for ourselves and asking questions.

You think this is an exaggeration? Let’s see… a woman was fired from her job after a media member posted an edited tape in which this woman appeared to be making racist comments. The woman’s employer didn’t do an internal investigation as to the origin or legitimacy of the story. The employer didn’t even give the employee an opportunity to tell her side of the story. Since the woman was employed by a government agency this story is national news, and today the USDA along with the Obama administration is taking a hit for not thinking for themselves and asking questions. They simply believed what the media reported.

The lesson I took away from all of this is that we need to continue to monitor the press and look at all stories with a more thoughtful eye before we jump to conclusions or trust the reports on both sides of the political aisle.

Carolyn Maroon is Maroon PR's Office Manager. Contact her at

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