Students, journalists host panel on reporting racist incidents in social media landscape


The A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications held a discussion Wednesday on the aftermath of racist or bigoted incidents as seen through the lens of social media.

Students, faculty and professional journalists talked about recent bigoted incidents on and around the Kansas State campus and how students should go about reporting these incidents.

Rafael Garcia, co-editor-in-chief of the Collegian and junior in mass communications, started the discussion by explaining recent controversies to other guests on the panel: the two separate Snapchat photos, the “noose,” the white nationalist posters and the vandalized car.

After the noose was discovered to be a parachute cord and the vandalism was found to be self-inflicted by the car’s owner, a question was posed: should every instance of alleged racism should be reported?

Bernard Franklin, assistant vice president of K-State, said efforts are being made to get around those issues.

“The university wants to be clear to the community that those incidents do not represent this university, do not define this university,” Franklin said. “But even larger and bigger than that, the university wants to have a position that we are not going to react every time something is posted or said.”

Kimetris Baltrip, professor of mass communications, said she has not heard her students talk about these incidents in a casual setting.

“I think it’s really imperative for faculty members to take these issues up in their classrooms,” Baltrip said. “I set time aside in class to discuss what happened [at KSUnite] and incidents that led to that great rally that we had.”

The discussion then went to how people should use social media, personally and professionally.

Christine Haughney, agriculture journalist for Politico, said she used social media as a way to promote her articles. Responses to her tweets helped her pitch her Netflix documentary series “Food Crimes” that will be airing early next year.

Haughney said if her show is picked up for another season, she will have difficulties rehiring some people because of their social media posts.

“What you do on social media should be treated in the most precious way possible, because this is your livelihood,” Haughney said. “Think of it as an extension of your resume.”

Phil Corbett, associate managing editor at The New York Times, said his job would be easier if everybody knew that a tweet could end their careers.

“One of the biggest challenges is that social media has this effect of really blurring lines that used to be very clear, and particularly blurring the lines of what is private and what is public, and the lines between what is personal and what is professional,” Corbett said.

However, Corbett said he does not mind his employees posting pictures of their families on social media because it allows professionals to show that they are human, although social media use comes with a risk.

“That mingling of the personal and the professional can also be risky because people can have a tendency to forget who they’re talking to,” Corbett said. “They think that this silly joke that they’re making is a joke that they’re just making to a few friends, when in fact you’re saying this to the whole world.”