You are who you are on the Internet

You are who your social media profiles say you are. One veteran anchorman with St. Louis’ KMOV-TV has recently brought that fact to light.

Larry Connors, longtime anchorman with “News 4 St. Louis,” posted on his Facebook page May 13 claiming that the IRS had been targeting him following his April 2012 interview with President Barak Obama.

In the post, now removed from the page and quoted in an article on stltoday.com, Connors stated, “I don’t accept ‘conspiracy theories,’ but I do know that almost immediately after the interview, the IRS started hammering me…What I don’t like to even consider … is that because of the Obama interview … the IRS put a target on me.

Can I prove it? At this time, no. But it is a fact that since that April 2012 interview … the IRS has been pressuring me.”

On Tuesday Connors backed off the comment during KMOV’s evening newscast, saying, “To be fair, I should disclose that my issues with the IRS preceded that interview (with Obama) by several years.”

And now Connors is facing the consequences. He is off the air until further notice and was scheduled to meet with KMOV executives today to discuss his future.

He is a reporter using a Facebook page with his name on it to report the news. His speculations, which Connors himself later admitted were inaccurate, hint at paranoia and bias against the Obama administration and the IRS. They have no place on that page or anywhere in Connors’ reporting. He should have kept them private instead of broadcasting them to his followers who rely on him for news coverage.

The fiasco is not only embarrassing for Connors and KMOV, but it provides keen insight into the ambiguity of the use of social media.

If Connors wasn’t a reporter, he could post those comments on the page without jeopardizing his professional reputation. But reporters take on the responsibility of being fair, unbiassed and accurate; therefore, as a reporter, Connors has forfeited the privilege of writing whatever he wants on social media.

Because our personal profiles are supposed to represent who we are to anyone viewing them, social media makes it easy for anyone, not just reporters, to embarrass or even incriminate themselves.

For instance, it would be unwise for a corrections officer to post photos of themselves participating in illegal activities online.  That officer would gain the reputation as an unprofessional representative of his profession, just as Larry Connors’ statement has led many to believe him an unprofessional journalist.

Our roles and responsibilities in society determine our roles and responsibilities on social media. Some professionals must forfeit certain privileges and keep certain aspects of their life private to preserve their professional reputations.

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