Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Publication Fails to Accurately Examine PETA Protesters

Sex sells. Just ask The Examiner, newfangled competitor of the local rag trying its darnedest to get noticed in an already overcrowded field of tabloid journals. Today’s edition, page 4, certainly grabbed my attention, but not for obvious reasons.

PETA protester in foreign KFC gains attentionYesterday, PETA members, Ashley Byrne and Shawn Herbold, apparently having nothing better to do, decided to picket a KFC on West North Avenue. Looking much like the fetching young lass pictured here, they drew curious inquiries from local police and rubbernecking from passing motorists. The article didn’t bother to explain why PETA is claiming KFC tortures chickens, but investigative journalism has never been The Examiner’s forte. The editors must have thought it would be enough to report the event and move on.

They thought wrong.

The overexposed picture and accompanying story proclaims, “Protesters Bare All” and “The Naked Truth.” Reporter, Kelly Carson, describes the two ladies as “nude protesters.” However, one astute reader quickly pointed out that the women wore pasties, underwear, and high-heeled shoes. They could not be “nude” as reported because they covered the private areas of their bodies with accepted articles of clothing.

Hmmm. The last time I looked in the dictionary, nude was defined as “naked or unclothed.” These rabblerousers were neither. Therefore, I have to agree with astute reader. The description of them as ”nude” was inaccurate and/or misleading. One would hope not to find such carelessness in a publication seeking regional recognition, but there is such a long list of things one would not hope to find, why quibble here?

I’ll tell you why. Journalists have a moral duty and ethical obligation to report just the facts, not their personal opinions. They are supposed to be held to a higher standard. Unless Carson meant to include a snide reference to their teeth, these women did not in fact “bare all.” I have no problem with the use of “The Naked Truth,” a reference to their protest banner, as a subheading for the article, but don’t expect me to believe they were actually nude.

Sexy or not, the real story was whether KFC tortures poultry before serving it up hot and spicy or with a blend of seven secret ingredients. Today, The Examiner had a chance to truly distinguish itself from the local rag. On this account, it failed miserably.