Journalists are supposed to inform, to report facts that are important to public discourse and general information necessary to be an informed member of society. But there are lines. There are guidelines, rules that are sometimes fuzzy and often obscured in this day of social media, where our public and private lives are so easily intertwined.
So, stop me if you’ve heard this one: a prominent public figure just lost their job because of something they published. Yes, it happens almost daily, but, this time, the person at the center of the issue definitely should have known better.
Michael Hirsh, an editor at online news site, Politico, has resigned from the company after admitting to having published the home address of a white supremacist leader as well as encouraging people to go to his home … and … well, that part was implied rather than stated. But, when it comes to something like this, “implied” is good – or bad – enough. People will take action.
Hirsh, who as a national editor of Politico Magazine, really should have understood the consequences of his actions, decided to make the Big Facebook Mistake, of posting something that would cost him his job. One wonders if he had a small hitch in his intentions, some small warning bell before he posted this:
“Stop whining about Richard B. Spencer, Nazi, and exercise your rights as decent Americans. Here are his two addresses. (Addresses)…”
It’s easy to understand why Hirsh was emotional, very simple to understand why he was upset by a video of a white supremacist “leading” a racist rally to rile up his fellow racists. Most decent people who saw that video were upset by it. But, remember, there’s a line. Journalists earn and maintain trust for a reason. They have a deep and abiding responsibility. And Hirsh, who knew better, crossed a line.
Politico editors John Harris and Carrie Budoff Brown called Hirsh’s post, “indefensible” in a statement that read, in part: “…clearly outside the bounds of acceptable discourse, and POLITICO editors regard them as a serious lapse of newsroom standards… They crossed a line in ways that the publication will not defend, and editors are taking steps to ensure that such a lapse does not occur again.”
This situation, of course, is nothing new. Last month, Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs “outed” the contacts of Jessica Leeds, a woman accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault. Dobbs apologized, and nothing more was done. Here’s hoping Hirsh will learn from his error and rebuild his promising career. Dobbs, who apparently faced no corrective action for his tweets, may encourage others to slip when they should be holding the line.