A few weeks ago I poked a bit of fun at this WUSA sting of a Foxhall liquor store where teens buy booze. It seemed kind of silly, since humans finding ways to purchase alcohol while underage is hardly news. But in the Post Style section (unclear why it’s in Style instead of Metro, but anyway) today, there’s a story about the backlash reporter Andrea McCarren received after producing the story:
The report drew email and Facebook denunciations of McCarren from young people apparently angered that she had exposed an easy supply of illicit alcohol.
“Way to go! Not,” wrote one self-described college student in a profanity-laced posting. “You are now probably the MOST hated woman in the D.C. area. Yay you! What was the point really of doing that story? No one finds it interesting (well that’s obvious anyways because its channel 9 news), but you also just ruined weekends for all kids underage.”
After this and another story on kids getting in trouble for underage drinking at a party, McCarren’s own children started getting bullied at school—which is when she decided to step back: “She said she and WUSA news director Fred D’Ambrosi agreed that she would stay off the air for a week while [colleague Derek] McGinty ‘put his face and voice’ on her work.”
D’Ambrosi added: “This is about the story, not the individual reporter. I believe content is king. As long as the information we report is accurate, that’s the point.”
I fully respect McCarren’s decision to put her kids first and step back and don’t really see a better solution for dealing with this kind of cruelty. But it’s troubling that a woman’s work is being appropriated by a male colleague in order to protect her, especially given the dearth of female investigative reporters out there. That McCarren is planning to change the scope of reporting she does— according to the Post, she’ll shift her focus away from teens and toward their parents—is a disappointing result, too.
Again, it’s hard to come up with a better resolution to the issue McCarren is facing other than for her to lay low. But on the larger scale, it’s a shame to see a professional silenced by the fact that not just she, but her children, have been subject to bullying. That one investigative reporter has taken a reprieve from the air and gone so far as to switch her beat to avoid harmful backlash is yet another reminder that journalism isn’t an equal playing field.
Photo by bomb_tea via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License