Seek the truth and report it as fully as possible.
This is the first of four guiding principles of ethical journalism I was taught years ago, and that I live by today. Like the First Commandment or the First Amendment, this one is first for a reason.
Without the first of these, nothing else in journalism matters. Our job – indeed our raison d'être – is to fight to gain information and share it to help our community better understand the world and the people around us. We dig for hard facts, and where hard facts fall short, we pursue multiple perspectives.
Sometimes hard truths are impossible to find. You and I will never know the entire story of what happened Oct. 12, 2012, in Highland Heights, when then 21-year-old Shayna Hubers shot and killed her 29-year-old boyfriend, Ryan Poston, in his home. The shooting is not in dispute. The reasons why are. Poston will never be able to give his side of the story. But until now, Hubers hasn’t given her side either – at least publicly.
Hubers did not testify in her own defense at her first trial, in April 2015, which ended with a guilty verdict and a 40-year prison sentence. That verdict was later overturned because of an unqualified juror. Still in jail, Hubers awaits a retrial. She has also never granted an interview with a journalist. Until now.
Last Tuesday, May 8, a handwritten letter sent from a Kentucky jail arrived in WCPO's newsroom. When our evening anchor Craig McKee realized it was a letter from Shayna Hubers, he requested an interview.
“Seek the truth…” That’s our job. When a newsmaker like Shayna Hubers wants to share her story, a journalist takes the interview every time.
As I said above, there are three other guiding principles of ethical journalism:
2) Act independently.
3) Minimize harm.
4) Be accountable.
Each is important in its own right, but No. 1 is No. 1 for a reason. The truth matters. Our job is to share what we learn, and what we know, so that you and the community can make the best decision for yourself as to what really happened that night in 2012 and since.
People have written and called us the past few days to express dismay that we would give this “monster” (quoted from one emailer) any attention. We’re journalists. We’re not police. We’re not social workers. We’re neither pastors nor doctors. We are your neighbors, and we have our own job in this community. We realize the airing of the interview may cause harm to Ryan Poston’s family or friends. We hope they will choose not to watch if doing so causes harm. That’s their choice -- and it’s yours, too.
But there’s still another side to this whole issue. By freely interviewing with WCPO, Shayna Hubers is now on the record like never before. And while her words with our reporter are not weighted the same as testimony under oath in a courtroom, her words still have legal ramifications. And that’s why the first calls we received after word got out that Hubers interviewed with us were from her attorneys and the prosecutors.
Regarding the final two guiding principles: If you need a reminder about WCPO and acting independently, please read this. We use ethical guidelines like these and broader codes of ethics like this and this to shape our decisions on complex matters. We hire and employ a diverse staff of experienced journalists, and we use each other to help us arrive at our best decisions as a newsroom. Rest assured, we make our own editorial decisions, right here in this newsroom.
Further, we demonstrate every day we’re willing to be accountable. We open our Facebook page to let people comment. We eagerly and readily engage our community on Twitter. Our Feedback Friday hotline is ALWAYS open. And my direct phone and email – you have those, too. Agree or disagree, you can find us and share your thoughts.