Back  Media Panel
November 5th 2001, Warwick Center, UNC-Wilmington
Media panelists and contributors to the Voices of Wilmington commentary series, both initiatives of the Pastoral Summit, gathered at a reception Nov. 5, 2001 at UNC-Wilmington.

Back row: Paul Wilkes, David Jones, Jon Evans, Susan Dankel, Frances Weller, Allen Parsons, Betsy Ervin, Greg Basinger, Miles Daniels
Front: Mollie Paen, Adrien Lopez, Kate Temoney, Remonda Kleinberg, John Cavanaugh, Frank Block, Don Habibi
Voices of Wilmington Media Panel
Media forum discusses ethics in the newsroom
By Collin Beck
The Seahawk


     Some media types are finding the public, still reeling from the horrific events of Sept. 11, more closely scrutinizing their presentation of the news recently. Addressing the ethics associated with reporting such serious events, a panel of five local journalists convened at UNCW as part of the Pastoral Summit talks. Allen Parsons, executive editor of the Wilmington Star; Ronda Bellamy of WGNI-FM; Jon Evans of WWAY - TV; Frances Weller of WECT -TV; and Susan Dankel of WHQR - FM all participated in the recent campus discussion, commenting on the recent media coverage and polling questions from a small audience of about 75 attendees.
     The event moderator, Paul Wilkes of UNCW's creative writing department, kicked off the forum by presenting his view that there is no such thing as "the media." Rather, he explained, the media comprises many individuals who collectively and individually come together to present news and important issues.
     Parsons, beginning the panel discussion, identified three critical issues relative to effective news reporting. He noted first, that journalist detachment from the issues is key. Second, Parsons said balance in addressing the full, contextual range of a situation, is paramount. Last, Parsons noted it is the responsibility of journalist to question authority. Only by examining issues through these criteria, Parsons said, would the important issues become evident.
     Commenting on the Sept.11 terrorist attacks, Evans said his news station, WWAY, an ABC affiliate, turned to "24 hour, wall-to-wall news (coverage) for four days." Evans said that the 96-hour period of continuous national news coverage presented challenges in regard to filling time. He said that ABC aired some stories that he, personally, thought were somewhat questionable in nature, noting specifically a story they aired that addressing the means by which bombs were made in the Oklahoma City bombing. He said that these types of stories are what fill time when no other new news is available.
     Frances Weller of WECT - TV agreed with Evans' comments. "Our job is to be responsible," she said. Parsons said many members of the public see the media as gatekeepers. Thus, the media is charged with the task of acting as a mirror for the society and giving the public a clear picture of what is going on. When asked how their respected TV stations would be handling presentation of material during Nielsen's November sweeps ratings, Weller conceded that her station would be giving special attention to stories that might gain the attention of an increased number of viewers. Although, she insisted along with Evans that stories would still be handled in a responsible, ethical way.
     Dankel, spoke of her station's effort to bring a local perspective to the events affecting the nation, by returning the station to its regular format as early as possible. "Americans have a responsibility to learn for themselves" (about the new news topics)" Weller said. Bellamy agreed noting that she reads a large number of online and print sources daily, so that she can gain knowledge and varying viewpoints on a single topic. She encouraged others to do so as well.
     The Pastoral Summit concluded with the panel addressing questions concerning how and why Americans may have been desensitized to tragedies and horrific events occurring internationally prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Evans said that these recent attacks just hit too close to home for many Americans. "Oh my God. Is that a plane that just hit the world trade center," Evans recalled of what Charlie Goodman of Good Morning America said on air at the time of the second building's attack. "It was the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers, very real places -- places where people had been."
Summit For more background on the media panel click here.