Top Mistakes Rookie Journalists Make: Ross and Carrie Case Study
I hate even mentioning their name because I don’t want to legitimize their existence or send curiosity seekers to their site, but the alt.fan.Gene-Scott group, (dating back to the mid 1990s) is yet again responsible for another misguided report. It may, at one time in its bizarre history, have actually been a place for fans to congregate, but over the years it has devolved into little more than a hate site inhabited by a small, but prolific group of disgruntled ex-members who post a myriad of conspiracy theories, gossip, and vicious rumors about Pastor Melissa Scott and her late husband, Dr. Gene Scott.
If you like mysogynist pejoratives such as “whore,” “slut”, “bitch” or even the liberal use of the “N” word, this is the place for you. The posters who plaster the board with the lion’s share of comments are three disgruntled ex-employees with more than the typical axe to grind. They worked for a short time for Dr. Scott way back in the 1990s and haven’t set foot in the church for over twenty years — but amazingly, they can’t seem to move on with their lives and instead, have spent decades trying to tear down what we in the church have worked so hard at building up. The rest of the alt.fan posters are a confused mix of fringe watchers and ex-members, and even some curiosity seekers who’ve never even been to the church, but for some strange reason, enjoy the misery-loves-company pathos, and mud slinging that is synonymous with alt.fan.gene-scott.
Haters gonna hate, but the alt-fans take hate to a new level. In the “Oh No Ross and Carrie” podcast Part 1, Ross Blochard makes one of his few correct assessments when he sums up the the alt-fans as a place where: “You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Ross then questions whether or not they have “all of their faculties together.”
For once I agree with Ross, but in a strange about face, Carrie throws the alt.fans a “shout out” with a resounding, “Hello!” As contradictory as her outburst seems, it’s only fair to give them a shout out since she pilfered their archives relentlessly to come up with her story. Carrie then thanks the alt.fans for providing her with the two former members that she calls Carrie’s House #1 and #2 — the two anonymous sources for whom she credits with giving her the “inside scoop” on the ministry.
I’m sorry, but basing an entire investigative report on the “God’s Angry Man” movie and what two members of the alt.fans told you, is tantamount to doing a story on Hillary Clinton’s career based on the “Clinton Cash” documentary and an interview with two ravenous, Donald Trump supporters. Or flip the analogy on it’s head and interview Debbie Wasserman Schultz and John Podesta for an unbiased story on the character of Donald Trump. It’s absolutely ridiculous for Ross and Carrie to even call themselves objective, investigative journalists. I would instead call them low-grade “Churnalists.”
“Churnalism” is a term for journalism that relies on getting its content from press releases and wire services with little or no independent fact-checking. Dr. Scott often mocked TV reporters calling them “empty headed cue-card readers” and the worst example of that was demonstrated not long ago in the Korean Air crash when news anchors mindlessly read racial slurs from their cue cards without missing a beat:
Bad enough when journalists just read what their wire service feeds them, but much worse when “Churnalists” like Ross and Carrie repeat rumors, hearsay, and gossip from the alt-fans hate site which isn’t even a news group, much less a vetted wire service.
Real investigative journalists focus on exposing unethical, immoral, and illegal behavior. It is complicated work often requiring teams of journalists, months of research and repeated interviews with numerous people. And it’s not an inexpensive endeavor when done correctly. Since Ross and Carrie had no time nor money to do the job right, they resorted to churnalism and just churned out a quick “hit piece.”
Now a hit piece can be best described as a “takedown.” When a journalist is seeking to f*** someone plain and simple, they write a hit piece regardless of the facts. Nothing wrong with criticism, but no respected journalist has time for “unattributed criticism”. What is Ross and Carrie’s biggest weapon to fire off their hit piece? A batch of unattributed quotes from anonymous sources in the alt.fans.
Take a look at the code of conduct I learned in journalism school and see how far Ross and Carrie have strayed from being real investigative journalists:
1) Use original sources of information, including interviews with people directly involved in a story, original documents and other direct sources of information and cite the sources of this information in reports.
Besides the marriage license and one visit to Faith Center, Ross and Carrie used no original sources of information. Every one of their accusations are merely inventions in their own minds, decades-old stories from the alt.fans archives, or quotes from the unattributed sources: Carrie’s House #1 and #2.
2) Fully attribute information gathered from other published sources, should original sources not be available (to not do so is considered plagiarism);
They would have been guilty of plagiarizing the alt-fans since they rehashed all of their old gossip, but since Carrie did give a shout out to her new bff’s, she has been cleared of plagiarism.
3) Use multiple original sources of information, especially if the subject of the report is controversial;
Ross and Carrie fail miserably on this one. Their subject is clearly controversial, but again, their only source of information is the alt.fans.
4) Check every fact reported;
They didn’t bother checking on one fact until their errors started being exposed on their Facebook page by yours truly. At first they even suggested that it was Pastor Melissa Scott who wrote the letters on top of the Fountain of Faith, until we informed them that although they thought the Fountain was some profound, new discovery, it was actually built in the late 1970s when Pastor Scott was about 9 years old. This info only required a quick Google search which they had been too lazy to conduct.
5) Find and report every side of a story possible;
Ross and Carrie reported on one side of the story. Their own side — corroborated with the accusations of the completely unbiased and objective alt.fans. What you are reading now on these pages is the first time the other side of the story will be reported.
6) Report without bias, illustrating many aspects of a conflict rather than siding with one;
Hahaha lol. Just listen to the podcast (or don’t) to hear how biased they are. These are recent converts to the secular humanist cause — former Christians who finally saw the light of their faulty, fundamentalist ways and joined the enlightened vanguard of the skeptic community at large. It is now their mission to enlighten the rest of us poor savages by exposing the evils of the antiquated, superstitious, money grubbing church. Wow, more on this later.
7) Approach researching and reporting a story with a balance between objectivity and skepticism.
Well, their balance tips all the way to the skepticism side, which makes sense, being that the two skeptics are even skeptical of being called skeptics. Carrie hates being called a skeptic but she speaks at Skeptical conferences and has been featured on Skepchick.org. To get Trumpian for a moment, their balance between skepticism and objectivity can best be visualized as Rosie O’Donnell vs. Miley Cyrus on a teeter totter.
8) Be careful about granting confidentiality to sources (news organizations usually have specific rules that journalists must follow concerning grants of confidentiality);
Carrie: “I’ve been in contact with a couple of people who have been following Gene Scott and later Melissa Scott literally for decades now. Both of the people have asked not to be named.” Well of course they don’t want to be named. Who wants to be sued for slander. And since they’re saying the same things that they anonymously wrote in the alt.fans, they could also be sued for libel.
9) Abstain from reporting or otherwise participating in the research and writing about a subject in which the journalist has a personal stake or bias that cannot be set aside.
Since Ross and Carrie are reformed, former fundamentalist Christians, their podcast makes it clear they’ll never be able to put their biases aside. Their bias towards any religion is what gives their life meaning. Their mission is to liberate us poor, dumb, superstitious Christians from the fear of God and those wolves in sheeps’ clothing in the Pastorate that would duly fleece us were it not for our new-found secular saviors.
10) Such a code of conduct is difficult to uphold consistently. Journalists who believe they are being fair or objective may give biased accounts—by reporting selectively, trusting too much to anecdote, or giving a partial explanation of actions. Even in routine reporting, bias can creep into a story through a reporter’s choice of facts to summarize, or through failure to check enough sources, hear and report dissenting voices, or seek fresh perspectives.
When I began commenting on their bias on their Facebook page, Carrie’s response was simply “LOL”. Her smug, self-righteous attitude and disdain for those who think differently than she does just oozes to the surface with little provocation.
11) News organizations provide editors, producers, and news directors whose job is to check reporters’ work at various stages to check compliance with the standards.
That may be true of professional organizations, but unfortunately in this case, Carrie and Ross are not answerable to anyone but their own conscience and my rebuttals to their multiple mistakes and mischaracterizations.
Now that I’ve exposed the the faulty foundation that cripples their story, I must painstakingly rummage through the litany of nonsense they’ve repeated as a result of their listening to alt.fan rumor mongering. They are old enough to know better and Carrie claims to have a Master’s degree from USC, so there’s no reason I should have to waste my time correcting two infants who claim to be investigative journalists. Yet if I don’t spend the time setting the record straight now, in another few years, some other lame-brain will come along and repeat the same rumors and we’ll all have to endure this tedious process yet again.
– Richard Harvey is a journalism major from San Francisco and a first-time guest poster on this site.