Journalists should cover, not create news

Melinda Duckett was only 21 years old when she put her father’s shotgun to her head and pulled the trigger.

A few months after her high school graduation in 2004, she had her first child, Trenton. She married his father soon after; they divorced about two months ago.

On Aug. 27, 2-year-old Trenton was kidnapped from Duckett’s Florida home.

Police and media investigation pursued, and two days before her suicide, Duckett was interviewed by CNN Headline News commentator Nancy Grace.

Anyone who has seen Grace’s show knows her very self-righteous reporting. She grills her guests and can often be found screaming about someone who must go to prison.

In this particular interview, she hounded Duckett with questions about where she was during the kidnapping. Clips from the interview show Grace berating Duckett asking, “Where were you? Why aren’t you telling us where you were that day?” in angry Grace fashion.

Headlines everywhere are connecting the death to the interview. Critics and family members are saying Grace’s interviewing style provoked the suicide and she should apologize for her actions.

While it is unfair to blame a suicide on one person, this should be a serious lesson for journalists everywhere and, more importantly, the public.

Sensationalist media is at an all-time high in the country. Shows like “Nancy Grace,” “Dateline’s” sexual predators episodes and “The O’Reilly Factor,” to name a few, feed off the audience’s interest in dogging an individual.

All of this leads to a definitive point in journalistic integrity: We should be reporting the news, not creating it.

The purpose behind Grace’s methods seem to be ratings, but this time it went too far.

We understand that Duckett may have been a suspect in her son’s kidnapping, but Grace seemed to have already made a final decision on her guilt. Her reporting was incredibly biased, and her assumptions were obvious. Since when is the media the judge, jury and executioner of individuals?

A journalist’s job is to get the story. While Grace may have wanted more information from the mother of missing Trenton, she seems to have forgotten that maybe she couldn’t say more because of the impending police investigation. Grace just wanted to appear as the spokeswoman for all things right.

We’re not saying the media should not be aggressive. For example, Anderson Cooper deserves due credit for attacking the government and asking hard-hitting questions after Hurricane Katrina. He wasn’t afraid to ask what everyone else would not.

The media really is the fourth level of government. Our job is to keep a watchful eye on all three branches, but when this mindset expands to attacking individuals, like Grace did with Duckett, we have an ethical dilemma.

The media needs to seriously reconsider this type of journalism, but the public needs to stand up too. Question the way we go at stories. Question our actions. Question the Nancy Graces and the Bill O’Reillys of journalism. This way we can hopefully prevent future tragedies like Melinda Duckett and justice can really be served.

The above editorial is the general consensus of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.