Whenever I hear the phrase “journalistic integrity”, call me old fashioned, but I immediately think of Walter Cronkite. During his time as a journalist, Cronkite reported on bombings during WWII, the Nuremberg trials, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Iran Hostage Crisis, and the assassinations of President JFK, MLK Jr., and John Lennon. At one point, he was known as “the most trusted man in America”. Many believe his reputation and style of reporting led to the United States finally withdrawing from the Vietnam War. He approached every story with what many coin the canons/ ethics of journalism.
Journalists who take on this code of ethics must abide by these five core principals: honesty, independence and objectivity, fairness, diligence, and accountability. Today news has warped and at times mirrors gossip columns like Page Six, the Daily Mail, the Sun, and the Daily News. Framing news in favor of sensational headlines and panelists voicing their opinions on current events. This has paved the way for bloggers to gain credibility in mainstream media, with some publications crediting bloggers for their reporting, and ultimately for drama and commentary channels to gain popularity in recent years on platforms like YouTube and Twitch.
Drama and commentary channels discuss current events in the fashion, beauty, and creator industries. Some channels have broken news of systematic racism, products created that are offensive and have warranted public outcry, and exposing known online predators who have left numerous victims in their wake. However, for every hard hitting story that has transcended from small creators on YouTube, there are many toxic, biased stories perpetuated from the top down.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love listening to drama and commentary channels. To me they are not to be taken seriously as they are voicing their opinions. However, there are points where these opinions channels go too far, and will often try to mask their biased in “receipts” and deleted tweets. They will argue that they are sharing facts and research done by them, and will offer blanket disclaimers of free speech and opinions. So the facts they present – should they ever prove to be incorrect – are only their opinions, its nothing serious. But what about when a channel goes too far? What should the drama and commentary community do about Sanders Kennedy?
To understand the situation at hand, we need to revisit dramageddon 3. Here’s the TLDR, dramageddon 3 is the series of events that led to Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star being forced to take accountability for their past actions and videos, as well as for their roles in dramageddon 2. On July 6th, Sanders Kennedy (the same drama channel that sparked karmageddon on June 11th when he allowed Tab David, Jeffree Star’s ex-friend, to take over his channel and upload a video calling Jeffree out) uploaded a video stating that he sent old videos from Shane Dawson’s channel to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and reported that there was a so-called “investigation” underway.
However, according to Insider, “the LASD confirmed that there is no investigation into Shane Dawson and that any statements otherwise were ‘misinformation.'” Sergeant Dave Payne, the Human Trafficking Bureau sergeant for the department, said that “Shane Dawson [had] not been charged with a crime and that no one has come forward to identify themselves to the LASD as a victim of Dawson’s.” This directly contradicts Sanders’ claims.
In Sanders’ video, he included audio of his own private conversation with Sergeant Payne, in which the sergeant refers to a “suspicious circumstance investigation.” “We don’t have enough to call it a crime, but there’s a lot of things we have to look through first, and we also need victims,” Sergeant Payne says in the recording. It would seem that Sanders took that information and twisted it to fit his narrative in order for him to get ahead of other drama channels with an “exclusive scoop”. However, Sanders Kennedy has faced staunch backlash since uploading the video, and may face legal action in the forms of a civil suit from Shane Dawson for libel and defamation of character.
And instead of Sanders taking accountability, like he urges everyone who is in a “scandal” on his channel to do so, Sanders has opted to disappear from social media. However, his silence has been short lived as he uploaded a video doubling down on his claims, but stating that he never said there was “an investigation” under way. He ended the video by urging anyone who has been a “victim” of Shane Dawson to either DM him or to contact the LASD.
So why does this matter? As stated above, drama channels have been able to skate by by not needing to back up their claims with anything other than a tweet, receipt, voice note, etc. However, Sanders had a voice note in this instance. He had a “receipt”. But, he failed to install any sort of ethics and allowed his biased to twist and contort the story to something far removed from reality. I feel that Sanders Kennedy should serve as a prime example for drama channels to dig deeper when running to “break a story”. And to put in more time and effort into their “drama investigations”. The internet doesn’t need more misinformation, especially in these trying times when the credibility of the media is being questioned by the highest office of power. We need to strive to be better and to dust off our text books and revisit what it means to be a journalist in the modern era, and the importance of having a a platform and an impressionable audience.
Now I want to close this out by offering a suggestion to the drama/ commentary/ tea/ entertainment/ communities on how we can do better:
- As a whole, we need to stop perpetuating cancel culture and make a conscious shift to accountable culture. We need to ask the hard hitting questions, reach out for quotes, and present the people who we are holding accountable in a critical, but unbiased and fair light.
- Don’t upload a video where 75% of it is pure speculation and harping one on tweet or picture uploaded to a public figure’s account. If there is no “tea” that day, there is no need to upload a video. That is when our community gets into our own internal drama and make mistakes by falsely reporting on the issues due to biased speculation.
- Keep the same energy. You can’t flip flop on your opinions. If you channel is constantly picking and choosing sides, that is a sign that you need to dig deeper into the matter at hand.
- Research your sources. If you have someone sending you “receipts” via DMs, double check and see if they are viable. Then research your tipper and see if they are a good source who is trustworthy and unbiased.
- Apologize and hold yourself accountable. If you report something incorrectly, keep the same energy. Issue a retraction and set the record straight.