Texas NBC Affiliate Misses the Mark on Coverage of Matthew Shepard Act

This week, as the House passes the Matthew Shepard Act and the Senate reintroduces its own version of the legislation, local media outlets are talking about this issue and how it affects local communities.

Last week, on April 23, an NBC affiliate station (KETK) in Tyler, Texas aired a segment titled “Gays could soon be protected under law”.

Reporter Lindsay Landry speaks about the inclusion of the LGBT community under the federal hate crimes bill in religious terms, “Most know that any time religion and sexual orientation makes it into the news, it’s bound to cause some controversy and this new bill proposal is no different.”

At first, the segment seems to play into the misleading claims of anti-gay activists that the inclusive hate crimes laws would affect the freedom of religious expression.

Fortunately, the segment later manages to distinguish between a direct call for violent action and religious preaching – preaching that would not be affected in any way if the inclusive federal hate crimes bill  passes.

While the original segment had problematic elements, a follow-up segment from Monday, April 27 titled “KTBB’s Question of the Day for Monday: KETK Viewers respond to Debate on Hate Crimes” reinforced those very misconceptions about the bill.

In that segment, the anchors -- Bob Brackeen and Charlotte Huffman -- and radio host Garth Maier debate people’s responses to the proposed bill.

A number of callers’ personal opinions are included, and most of them reinforce inaccuracies and misinformation, which the journalists fail to address or correct, such as:

GARTH MAIER: Do you think that religious preachers should be exempt or protected from prosecution under any hate crimes bill?

CALLER: ...I think whoever proposed this legislation was probably or is probably a homosexual, and if this passes, this is going to start a domino effect that we're going to see for years.  It's going to greatly influence our personal freedoms.

Take a look:

Please share your thoughts about the two reports with KETK so that we can ensure that the reporting on this legislation is fair, accurate and inclusive.

Neil Barton News Director 903-581-5656 neal@nbc56.com