If you don’t see NBC News “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd on Twitter opining on politics, the news or sports for a while, don’t be too surprised.
He and Twitter aren’t getting along too well right now.
Todd has been getting hit by the Twitterverse with both barrels since airing a segment on Sunday’s show about gun control that was notable for two reasons:
One, it was connected to a discussion on the shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, shootings that were allegedly committed by a White man, Dylann Root.
And two, the only people who were featured in the segment, which was shot at New York’s Sing-Sing Correctional Facility, were Black men…something that didn’t go unnoticed in the Twittererse…
— Steve Kanig (@flitedocnm) June 22, 2015
— Marshall C. Bell (@MarshallCBell) June 22, 2015
When the attacks started coming, Todd attempted to justify the segment by saying that the segment had been planned prior to the shootings and that after an internal debate, the “Meet The Press” staff had decided to run it because they didn’t want to have a much-needed discussion on gun violence waylaid by racial and perceptional issues.
“We wanted to show multiple sides of what gun violence does in this country,” the statement said. “We thought the issue of gun violence in our culture and society was an important conversation to continue—too important to put off for another week. The consequences of gun violence should not be hidden. As I say to all audiences, “Meet the Press” should make all viewers uncomfortable at some point or we are not doing our job.”
But all that statement did was make folks who were already pretty angry, even angrier. After a period that led to Todd blocking a lot of his former Twitter followers, and hearing near constant calls that he be fired, he eventually apologized for the segment and admitted that “we clearly got it wrong”.
AllDigitocracy was unsuccessful in reaching Todd for comment.
Now as a journalist, I’m totally comfortable with making people uncomfortable. That’s a huge part of my job. In fact, it’s the part I like the most. But there’s making people uncomfortable, and then there’s making a move like the one Todd made; a move that makes people wonder if you slept through that Law and Ethics of Mass Communication class we all had to take in journalism school.
I say this because there’s a lot of questionable ethics going on here.
First of all, there was a distinct lack of diversity in the segment, something that Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson pointed out, and it played to just about every stereotype of Black men as violent predators possible, two things that are red flags under Society of Professional Journalists ethics guidelines. Sing-Sing is a maximum security prison that’s home to 2,000 inmates. Logic dictates that much of the prison’s multicultural population (13 percent White, 56 percent Black, 30 percent Latino) is in jail for gun related crimes.
So you only focus on the Black inmates…why?
Secondly, Todd took too long to respond to charges of bias. Under SPJ ethics guidelines, you’re supposed to respond to such charges quickly, and responding doesn’t mean blocking people on Twitter who have complained about your reporting. It took more than 24 hours and a whole lot of angry Tweets for Todd and the “Meet The Press” staff to fully respond to the claims of bias, something that might impact the show’s viewership.
And lastly, it might be time for Todd to remember the most important ethical cannon of all: abide by the same high standards you expect of others.
Might help you with the Twittererse…