Journalism is meant to be a public guardian, a watch dog for the greater good of the public’s best interest. Unfortunately, in a world filled with the internet, where a writer or videographer lurks around every corner, a fine line has been drawn in the proverbial sand.
The internet has a myriad of mediums that contain opinions and writings on a subject: bloggers, journalists, Facebook status updaters, tweeters, users of Reddit, and more. Nowhere is this more prevalent than on social media. When reporting a story involving an ethical dilemma, the writer must be completely objective and follow a strict line of reporting to maintain journalistic and public integrity. A recent event involving some people of color and a manager at Chipotle caused a wave of personal information and debates of racism to become prominent in the news.
The ethical debate of a public’s right to know of a situation and the privacy of an individual’s life comes into play in two different articles. One article paints the overall picture with supporting information and ideas. The other takes a more direct route that states the facts while delving more into the personal life of the story’s subject.
Dominique Moran, a manager at a Chipotle in St. Paul, Minnesota, faced an onslaught of comments, criticisms, and backlash from a situation that took place during one of her shifts. A couple of young men, all of which were black, had attempted to place an order for food. She had dealt with the men before on several occasions where they attempted to get their food without paying or said they could not pay. To help alleviate the entire situation, Moran asked the men to pay before preparing their food. The situation immediately turned to poison as the men recorded the ordeal and posted the video to Twitter.
Racism immediately became a key player in the altercation as the men believed she refused to serve them as normal due to their race. The video went viral, and the internet blew up against the manager. After the terminal effect of the viral video, Chipotle released the manager and apologized to the public and to the young men affected by the situation. Some time later, evidence came to light that showed Moran was simply trying to protect the store based on previous knowledge of the young men’s visits. Chipotle eventually realized what happened and offered the manager her job again.
The video and the event obviously made national news. Given that racism has been at the forefront of many stories in the last few years, the last few weeks more so, it makes sense that the story garnered as much publicity as it did. With social media playing such a heavy role in the status quo, stories revolving around the controversial subject are more entertaining and informative than usual. Racism has continued to be a controversial subject within the United States, and this story allowed for some writers to take a forefront attitude in addressing the internet and racism as an overall whole.
John Blake, a CNN reporter, wrote a heavily detailed article for CNN that painted the entire picture of the story. In Blake’s article, he touched on several points that did not necessarily need including in a news report. Faith, racism, social media usage, mob mentality, bias, and a slew of other subjects found their way into the article. All of these facets were not necessarily essential to the report, but it made for a more educated and intellectual discussion about some problems faced in modern times. Blake uses educated sources and actual science to describe and define the correlation between racism, the internet, and social media.
Given the notoriety of the story across national headlines, it seems as if the story carried a certain amount of merit. Whether this story was a necessity for public perception and reporting remains in question. While racism and the backlash of the internet when given a situation that requires interpretation and reception is important, this incident put a heavy modicum of limelight on a few people. Chipotle, the manager, the young men that posted the original video, the manager’s mother, and random users on Twitter all received notice in the article. Unfortunately, it was not mere mentions that graced the article.
The personal life of Dominique Moran was put on display. Her religious beliefs were at the forefront of some of the discussion. Blake mentions that Moran visits a Lutheran church. Moran’s mother and her comments make an appearance in the article. Blake also describes Moran’s school, scholarship, reason for moving, and hobbies. While an argument can be made that this helps give a better view of who Dominique is as a person, the amount of information released no longer gives her a unique identity. It is all on display for the world to see.
Instead of divulging that much information, it might have been easier to tell the story as it happened. Blake could have described what happened, how it happened, and what the repercussions of the entire affair warranted. Blake (2019) also decided to post findings regarding the young men that posted the original video. His previous actions and social media usage led to a reversal of Chipotle’s decision. Unfortunately, this also released the Twitter handle of the video’s origin. Delving that far into the lives of the two main subjects revealed too much information.
The other article, one from an online source called DailyMail.com, decided to take a more central approach to the confrontation. While much of the information is the same throughout, Louise Boyle, the author of the article, decided to stay away from the debate and discussion of the internet and racism and focus mainly on Dominique Moran. Boyle might mention racism as a catalyst for the event, but her entire article focuses on the manager and the man that posted the video. This is a different take on the situation that leads to two different reads of the same story.
Boyle goes into further detail about the event but does not delve too far into Moran’s personal life or origins. While this proves to be a better-rounded story about the situation, it still begs the question of importance and relevance to the public need for the story. Unlike the article from CNN, Boyle (2018) posts many screenshots of the Twitter posts from both parties and gives the opinions of random users regarding both people. This article focused heavily on social media feedback rather than professional opinions or direct sources. Boyle should have reduced the amount of actual information regarding the social media accounts, names, and lives of both the manager and the young man.
Both articles did a fantastic job of educating the reader on the situation, but in the end, far too much information was provided regarding the parties of the story. While no real bias appeared in either story, one chose an academic approach whereas the other followed a base value informational path. Leaving bias out of the picture was smart given the nature of the controversial subject matter of racism. Choosing to write these stories, while innocuous in nature, seems to be a matter of feeling the need to comment on a situation that made national news rather than providing the public with an important event’s happening.
Two different articles from two different publications provided an entertaining story of a young woman’s struggle through a tough situation. The underlying theme of racism played a heavy role in the overall outcome of the event, but the necessity of the information provided is questionable. Both articles outlined what happened, but each one took a different route in its storytelling. One chose a theme of academic analysis while trying to answer why it happened. The other chose to give straight facts about the case while providing commentary on the opinions of others. Both stories provided far too much information about its subjects when the story should have been simple and cored. Even though both stories provided factual, informational subject matter, the importance of its event will always beg the question of the power of social media, internet backlash, and what it means for people in the modern world.