KTVA reporter’s actions undermine issue, profession

  • By Peninsula Clarion Editorial
  • Thursday, September 25, 2014 8:55pm
  • Opinion

During a Sunday newscast, Charline Egbe, or Charlo Greene as she was known to her Anchorage-based CBS-affiliate station KTVA audience, joined the ranks of Alaskans who justify glaring conflicts of interest with absurd assertions that their actions were somehow for the greater good.

During the broadcast, Greene played a story about the Alaska Cannabis Club — the last in a five-part series of stories she authored — and then quit her job.

“Now, everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska,” she said. “And, as for this job, well, not that I have a choice, but f— it, I quit.”

While we’re sure the FCC did not appreciate her dramatic sign-off, it wouldn’t be the first time someone dropped an f-bomb on prime time television and it will likely not be the last.

In reality, explicit language is the least problematic part of her sign-off.

Greene, who erroneously represents herself as a journalist, drew a significant amount of attention to herself after the incident — though it remains to be seen if that attention will translate into tangible support for her movement.

In the process, she also undermined the foundations of ethical journalism, embarrassed her colleagues and made it more difficult for them to do their jobs — all while bringing the debate over the marijuana initiative to a new level of juvenile discourse.

Greene’s stunt detracts from critical issues surrounding marijuana use that need to be addressed, like the status of medical marijuana users in the state.

Regardless of where you stand on Ballot Measure 2, or any other issue, lying to support one’s argument is tantamount to admitting that you have no way to reason through an accurate argument.

And Greene did lie. She lied to her bosses, her colleagues and her audience.

Greene’s lie led to shoddy, one-sided reporting, which ultimately robbed viewers of factual information needed to help make an informed decision on whether to legalize recreational marijuana use in Alaska. Her lie assumes that people are too stupid to make an informed decision on their own — a disservice to those who care enough about the issue to seek out news — and ultimately her lie could lead people to voting differently in November than they would have, had they known the truth. In violating the basic precepts of journalist ethics, Greene managed to ruin the trust of her viewers and make it more difficult for Alaskans to make informed decisions about the future of the state. It is the antithesis of a reporter’s reason for existence.

Jack Marshall, an ethicist, lawyer and president of ProEthics, Ltd., made several observations on the episode that are important for people to understand about Greene and about the profession she claimed to represent at KTVA.

Here are a few of them; a full list can be found at ethicsalarms.com:

■ She reported on a story in which she had a direct interest, an outrageous conflict of interest and a breach of journalism ethics.

■ She hijacked the broadcast for her own political views, hoping to influence an upcoming state referendum.

■ She stole airtime for what amounted to an ad for her business as well as a political ad for her side of the referendum.

Despite her obvious disdain for media, Greene has done several interviews with major media outlets in the aftermath of her on-air publicity stunt.

During a Thursday interview with Huffington Post, Greene acknowledged that she acted unethically but justifies her position with the assertion that other journalists run inaccurate information without vetting it. She said she felt a responsibility to the community to offer a dissenting opinion on the Vote No On 2 campaign.

“I have a journalism degree,” she told the Huffington Post. “I know in journalism there’s a line that you’re not supposed to cross, and the minute I bought my business license on 4/20 of this year, I shouldn’t have reported on any marijuana stories. But if I had gone to my boss and said, ‘Hey, I bought this company,’ I would have been fired, period. I wasn’t ready for that to happen.”

That statement, and a similar one she made to Vice News during which she called journalists “replaceable” and says she used her position at KTVA to make sure her business venture was “wide open” for her, make Greene look manipulative, greedy and opportunistic.

Even people on her side of the issue have distanced themselves from Greene.

Taylor Bickford, spokesman for the pro-legalization Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told the Alaska Dispatch News that the campaign had no prior knowledge of her plans. He also worried that frenzy around her profanity could overshadow the issues she raised in her reporting.

When the hubbub dies down, Greene will be remembered for saying f— on television and being a liar. And no one will believe a liar, even if she’s telling the truth.

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