CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik, whose recent tweets referred to Occupy Wall Street protesters as whiners and interested in "smoking weed," now regrets at least one of the postings, according to a CNN spokesperson.
Asked to respond to the tweets that have drawn criticism from media critics and journalism veterans, CNN emailed this short statement:
Alison regrets the tweet and took it down.
That statement was in reference to a Twitter exchange Kosik had in which she described the "purpose" of Occupy Wall Street protests "in 140 [characters] or less" as "bang on the bongos, smoke weed!"
Another Kosik tweet, in response to a question about the list of demands from protesters, stated: "the list of whines is too long already."
Both Twitter comments were captured by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen. Kosik has removed the "smoke weed" posting, but the "whines" item remained up as of Friday afternoon.
Several media writers and news instructors said Kosik crossed the line when she offered such opinions on Twitter while also covering the growing story as a CNN reporter.
"What is her job? Is she a straight news reporter?" Eric Deggans, media critic of the St. Petersburg Times, asked sarcastically. "And if she is considered a straight news reporter, it crosses the line because she is revealing contempt for the protesters before she even gets there."
Media critic David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun said Kosik needs to understand the power of her tweets.
"It's public record. You can say 'I'm doing it in a different forum, it is not in the story or the post or the report,' but you are still making a public utterance about this story," Zurawik said. "I think this is really a management problem at CNN New York. I don't think their standards are there. You have what is really an important story, literally on your doorstep and you go out and make fun of it."
Asked if Kosik had been disciplined or if the incident had sparked any change in social media policy, CNN did not respond as of Friday afternoon.
"I think it's clearly a mistake," Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former editor of The Miami Herald, said about Kosik's actions. "Clearly, at that point, you have compromised yourself as a reporter. You are no longer going to be seen as someone who is capable of reporting objectively."
Deggans added about the protest coverage in general: "My suspicion is that the people who might have been on the front lines covering this don't respect it. They are not being open-minded about it. They are kind of shrugging it off."
Carol Ann Riordan, interim executive director of the American Press Institute, which conducts many journalism ethics events, also criticized Kosik.
"This is pretty basic journalism 101," Riordan said. "You absolutely do not put in your point of view or feelings about the subjects you are reporting on. It would be one thing if a reporter used Twitter to capture very quickly the events of the news. But saying they 'bang on the bongos' and 'smoke weed' or 'the list of whines is too long already' she not only stepped over the line, she jumped over the county line."
Robert Steele, professor of journalism ethics at DePauw University and an ethics instructor for The Poynter Institute, said Kosik's actions violate news principles.
"Journalists certainly have beliefs and opinions," he said in an email. "However, the principle of independence means journalists should do their best to not let their personal views skew their reporting in any way including the appearance of bias. If Alison Kosik is tweeting her views on the Occupy Wall Street protests, she is violating that principle of journalistic independence."
Bill Kovach, founding director of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and former Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, said Kosik was "bastardizing" her journalism.
"The idea of tweeting and belittling the people she's covering, there is no relationship to journalism in that kind of behavior, that's absurd," he said. "I don't see how the people who manage CNN, the managers and editors whose responsibility it is to protect the integrity of the news can allow that behavior to go on."
Dan Kennedy, a journalism instructor at Northeastern University and former longtime media critic for The Phoenix, said reporters must withhold opinion while reporting stories.
"A journalist can't use one medium to report a story that's supposedly fair and neutral and another to indulge in snark and opinion," he said in an email. "News organizations need to insist that their reporters adhere to the same standards on Twitter as on other platforms. Journalists shouldn't confuse the looser, more informal tone that works on Twitter with a license to express opinions about the stories they're covering."
Fred Brown, vice chair of ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists and a columnist for The Denver Post, said Kosik's actions give the wrong impression:
"If you are going to be covering a story, you shouldn't take sides because it gives your audience, your readers, the impression that you aren't being impartial and giving fair play to all relevant points of view."