Has Fox Reporter Mike Synan’s “Hail Obama” Report Violated Journalistic Protocol and Integrity?

As a “Publisher” and “Journalist” I have remained reticent during the 2012 presidential campaign. My approach to reporting news has been to allow other voices to express themselves in the online newspaper that I founded back in February of this year.

The Guardian Express was primarily conceived as a platform to give the voiceless a stage to participate in the global, national and local conversation no matter Which way the conversation leaned. Specifically, it was fashioned to reflect the voices of a diverse world community. In other words, we emphasize inclusivity, regardless of a person’s social identities. There are few places where we draw the line; thus, some may find an article or two to be offensive to the views they value. Nevertheless, we feel the right to free expression far outweighs censorship.

Freedom of expression as we understand and define it does however, have some reasonable limits. For example, hate, bigotry, injustice, fabrication and violent speech has no place in a community that advocates principles outlined in the United States Declaration of Independence. The specific principles we have chosen as the governing bylaws of the Guardian Express online newspaper can be summed up in the belief that all human beings have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; Additionally, “You Have a Right to be Heard.”

Nevertheless, when a person claims to be a professional reporter, equipped with an understanding of what that means, that person has a responsibility to these tenets and the generally accepted creed of the journalist. One of the most important principles that guides all responsible journalists is to never, ever become the story you are reporting. Therefore, the question I will attempt to answer in this report is; has Fox news reporter, Mike Synan’s report, which claims that Obama supporters chanted “Hail Obama” at a rally featuring Michelle Obama, violated journalistic protocol and integrity?

With that said, a report sprung into the news yesterday on Twitter and elsewhere online that claimed hundreds of people at a Florida campaign rally featuring First Lady Michelle Obama began chanting “Hail Obama”, according to a television reporter who was covering the event.

In an exclusive interview with TheBlaze, WOFL Fox 35 reporter Mike Synan said he is “100 percent positive” that the crowds were chanting “Hail Obama!” at the event. Further, he said there were at least three or four other local TV stations at the event that heard it as well.

“We all started talking about it after my tweet started getting attention,” he told TheBlaze. Everyone was “in agreement” about what was being chanted and many agreed it was “tacky.”

People have questioned Synan’s claim, some because they are Obama supporters and others because there is no video that proves inconclusively that “Hail Obama!” was being shouted at the rally.

Synan said the chant began before Michelle Obama took the stage and before the TV stations were plugged into the audio and that the TV stations were unable to capture video.

Responding to his critics, the 15-year veteran reporter said he would have reported it the same way if the crowds were chanting “Hail Romney.”

“I am just a reporter,” Synan told TheBlaze. “I just report on what happens.”

However,  that in his 15 years as a reporter,  he had never heard a crowd say “hail” before anyone’s name, much less a politician. He said some of his colleagues at other local news outlets didn’t think it was as newsworthy as he did.

“I don’t think anybody else thought it was a big deal like I did,” he said. “They generally say the same things at these rallies, so my ears are always up for something that’s different.”

As I looked over numerous websites that provided remarks to Synan’s comments, I noticed quite a few of them exhibit some awful hate language. Mind you, these were not major news agencies expressing such unreasonable language as “thisainthell.us” which commented that after Synan’s report saying; “I’d prefer a video of the chant, but I guess this will do. Local Fox stations tend to be much more liberal than their parent news channel. It’s good that Obama supporters feel more comfortable in their slimy, reptilian skin the closer we get to the election and show us their true feelings.”

I find language of that sort quite troubling as it is fairly easy to identify it as “racist hate.” Much of this same kind of language seemed to fill Twitter pages, stirring up some of the most unpleasant hate language I have ever witnessed in real-time.

Some of the more presentable comments read: Obama crowds in Florida chanted “Hail Obama” with Michelle today. There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t know where to begin.

“Hail Obama” story is entirely FALSE. Made up from a tweet by a local FOX reporter. The crowd was chanting Michelle Obama, who was there.

If Mike Synan of Fox says he heard a crowd chant “Hail Obama”, I believe him. Fox only reports news as it is, not as they want it to be.

Leave it to Fox to make up a “Hail Obama” story, they are famous for comparing him to Hitler and the Nazis so no surprise.

Hail Obama is trending, really?. Hail Obama? Makes more sense to yell ‘Fail Obama.’ Or better yet, ‘Jail Obama.’

Now I cited some of the sensible tweets to conclude my point; and here it is:

First, journalists are taught to avoid becoming the story. That’s journalism 101. The way this story was reported if you watch the video was quite interesting. Synan made sure he gave his report, then at the very end he included the “Hail Obama” line in his last sentence. Then Synan took to his Twitter account to defend his claims to a rapidly swelling Twitter audience. It was his behavior on Twitter that has triggered my critique, and a lesson from which aspiring journalists might learn from.

Second, as a credible and responsible journalist, you never ever morph into the story you are reporting on. And that’s the real problem here. It might be a totally different story had other reporters or witnesses corroborated Synan’s story. My argument would take on a much different dimension. But there are no corroborating witnesses, no video or audio tape, which is strange on its merits. And the fact that Michelle rhymes with hail does not help Synan’s position. Moreover, the fact that he is employed by a measurably right leaning news organization also damages his report.

If Mike Synan had followed journalistic source integrity and protocol, his personal credibility would not a be part of the debate, however, he chose this path and therefore his credibility as a solid journalist is now subject to debate.

My last remark is to simply remind the journalist that the rules and protocols are there to protect not only the profession, but also the individual and their brand. Right about now, Synan might be able to produce an army of supporters of his position, but he may have gained such support at the expense of losing respect amongst his peers and the diminishment of his personal brand. And it’s my opinion that he would be much the wiser to let the story go, which is clearly now about him.

4 Responses to "Has Fox Reporter Mike Synan’s “Hail Obama” Report Violated Journalistic Protocol and Integrity?"

  1. Doc   November 2, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    The author’s malapropism of ‘tenants’ (for ‘tenets’) in the mist of pontificating about what makes a legitimate journalist is funny.

    Reply
  2. Robert8   November 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Since the role of a Journalist is to get as much of the story as possible, if Synan ‘heard’ hail, it presented an opportunity to ‘wade-in’ among the crowd and interview alleged chanters; to ask where they got the notion to chant hail, when, why and how. An opportunity to hang some meat on the story was missed due to what seems to be rapturous wishful thinking. A journalist would have wanted to find out how and why such a thing was happening to satisfy like curiosity on the part of readers.

    A Southern (Florida) accent would make Michelle sound very much more like hail. If they were chanting Michelle, filing of an incorrect story could have been avoided by exploiting an opportunity for real journalism. If the chant was hail, some answers to a rather unsettling crowd behavior could have been gleaned by following up on the central focus of his report.

    Reply
  3. Jennifer   November 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    The most frightening thing about this election is how biased all media is. There’s barely a pretense anymore of objectivity, and what little there is is used to camouflage the reporter’s own campaign support. Very sad and very disturbing! This heavily contributes to the divisiveness of our country.

    Reply

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