Not-so-socially-acceptable media

photo courtesy of the Creative Commons License

By Mimi Wright, Kirkwood High School

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If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. In elementary school, I was taught this little piece of advice to avoid petty fights with my friends on the playground. I was taught this little piece of advice in middle school when girls would be rude and not invite everyone to their birthday parties. I was taught this piece of advice in high school when boys were hurtful and all I wanted to do was take it out on social media where I didn’t have to say it in person. This little piece of advice was clearly not taught to E.J. Miller before he went on a Twitter tirade against Mitch Eden, journalism adviser, last Friday.

I understand the school board is under increasing pressure due to the failure of Prop A. TKC chose to shed light on Prop A by writing a news piece as well as a staff editorial about the school board’s failure to share much-needed information about the debt with the community. Eden has nothing to do with our coverage– especially our decision to cover this issue that we felt was important to the community because it greatly affected our school. However, Miller chose to take to Twitter to attack Eden publicly about a sidebar on the same page as the staff editorial. In this sidebar, TKC wanted to answer common misconceptions about where money was used regarding the new journalism building and the Walker Natatorium. The question posed was, “Why does KHS need money when they have a $2.5 million journalism center and $10 million pool?” to which The Call responded, “Both the pool and the journalism center were private donations made to the school meaning the money afforded for those buildings could only be used for those buildings.”

Miller failed to contact me, the editor-in-chief, about his grievances with our sidebar. It is Call protocol that I am the first person someone should contact, if they have an issue or concern with our magazine. We always welcome criticism of our pieces because it makes us better journalists. But instead of sending an email or writing a letter to the editor, Miller chose to contact Eden, who had nothing to do with our coverage, through a tweet.

Miller’s attack began in response to Eden’s daily leadership tweet early Friday morning, “There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group– less competition,” with the hashtag “SJquote.”

Miller responded with, “Then don’t forget to give credit to Scott Anderson and those who worked to fund improvements to the J-Center; not all donations.”

The Call recognizes those who helped give us an absolutely stunning building where we can grow and improve. We even shared a video of our building at a national journalism conference to show people how lucky we are.

However, the point of our piece was not to talk about our journalism building but rather the failed attempts by the school board to pass Prop A. Miller analyzed a very small part of our page, took a tweet out of context and ran with it, not caring who he bullied along the way.

Many times throughout the Twitter fight, I found myself laughing and thinking it was a joke. At one point in time, I actually thought someone had hacked Miller’s account and was creating jibber-jabber. But no, it was the real deal. Eden, following Call protocol, suggested Miller contact me, if he had an issue with our story. Instead of contacting me or emailing me in a professional manner, he then tagged me in his response to Eden, suggesting he contact me stating, “I’ll ask that EIC give credit where due.”

I ignored the tweet, and maybe Eden should have as well because clearly a public battle on Twitter wasn’t the best idea. But then, just before 8 p.m., eight hours after Eden’s last tweet, Miller attacked Eden for being a Duke fan. Miller accused Eden of being a “smug Dukie wannabe” and that just didn’t sit too well with me and plenty of other KHS students, alumni and teachers. Many took to Twitter in defense of Eden, saying he was the greatest teacher they had ever had while calling Miller immature and unprofessional.

In retrospect, Twitter was too public of a forum for this discussion and the manner in which it was discussed by Miller was unprofessional. If Miller had kindly described his issues with our writing, I would have gladly accepted it. However, angry Twitter tirades are not advantageous for anybody. And if only he had learned that little piece of advice all those years ago, we could have avoided this mess altogether.

Editors note: On Monday afternoon, E.J. Miller tweeted the following: “I have sent the follow statement directly to @cmeden: I regret that my comments devolved into an ad hominem attack. For that I apologize. If there is any suggestion that my comments on Friday were directed to KHS kids, be assured that was not my intention.”