Tweet and Delete: How KPLR's Melanie Moon Got Facts Wrong on Ryan Ferguson's Release
In a series of tweets that have since been deleted, Moon defends her hug, saying Ferguson was falsely accused and unfairly imprisoned. She seems to say that because Ferguson is definitely innocent, she can join in celebrating his release even though she's a journalist covering his case for a St. Louis audience.
@mayerjoy Direct quote from Appeals Court- "Newly discovered evidence clearly & convincingly establishes that he is actually innocent."— Melanie Moon (@Moon_Melanie) November 14, 2013
Moon even gets a little snarky, taking a sarcastic jab at Renee Hulshof, whose husband, Kenny, who had several cases overturned upon review while working as Attorney General Jay Nixon's special prosecutor:
|Screen-grabbed because the tweet has since been deleted|
Just one problem with Moon's stance: Ferguson was not found innocent. There's no proof he was falsely accused or wrongly imprisoned. He is free because prosecutors did not submit all evidence to Ferguson's defense team, a fact Mayer and other journalists quickly point out.
The court ruled to vacate Ferguson's conviction because he is either innocent or his due process was violated, according to court documents. Moon incorrectly quotes the court's ruling over and over again.
Direct quote from Appeals Court- "Newly discovered evidence clearly & convincingly establishes that he is actually innocent."— Melanie Moon (@Moon_Melanie) November 14, 2013
@mayerjoy I'm just quoting the what the WD Appeals court wrote.— Melanie Moon (@Moon_Melanie) November 14, 2013
@mayerjoy YES, exactly. They said he was innocent.— Melanie Moon (@Moon_Melanie) November 14, 2013
Moon is not the only journalist getting the court's ruling half-right:
Mayer says she was startled by Moon's unfounded assertions of Ferguson's innocence.
"It seemed like this reporter was saying, 'I made those ethical choices because I was on the side of what is right,'" Mayer says. "Her perception of what is right wasn't rooted in fact..., When I saw she was basing her decision to display her jubilation on something that was not factual, then I got more fired up than curious."
Mayer, the director of community outreach at the Columbia Missourian, says she hopes her students learn from this case that their tweets, like their news stories, should be accurate.
"Your credibility hinges on what you do publicly," Mayer says. "You need to be able to stand behind your tweets the same way you stand behind a news story."
But no one's perfect. So when you mess up in a tweet, Mayer says, admit it.
"The answer is hardly ever to delete [tweets] and pretend it didn't happen," Mayer says. "They don't evaporate when you hit delete. There's not a big giant take-back. There's no control-Z."
Continue reading to see Mayer's complete record of the conversation between Moon and other journalists on Twitter.