A production assistant for a local television station is under investigation by her employer after planning, promoting and participating in a civil demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., last weekend.
Management for KSDK-TV (Channel 5) said they were unaware that one of its staffers, Jana Marie Gamble, had participated in last week’s National March on Ferguson until it was brought to their attention by a newspaper reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The reporter was among several at various news organizations contacted by Gamble in the days leading up to the march, which was organized by longtime community activists Anthony Shahid and Zaki Baruti.
According to the Post-Dispatch, Gamble used her personal Twitter and Facebook accounts to send messages to a number of news outlets — including some of KSDK’s competitors — in order to drum up publicity for the event. She also posted images of the rally to a page called “It’s a Gamble Production,” which appears to be an independent production company of which Gamble is the sole proprietor.
KSDK executive Marv Danielski told the Post-Dispatch that Gamble’s job as a production assistant includes running teleprompters and posting images on KSDK-branded websites and profiles. PAs help other employees, but do not make editorial decisions, Danielski told the paper.
Danielski refused to discuss the station’s investigation with TheBlot Magazine, saying by e-mail the issue was a “personnel matter.”
But others say the issue isn’t as clear cut. Gamble, who does not identify herself as a KSDK employee on any of her Facebook or Twitter profiles, still works for a news product that serves the St. Louis market. Part of that market includes Ferguson, the site of a fatal officer-involved shooting that sparked nationwide police reform protests.
Read more: TheBlot Magazine’s Ongoing Ferguson Coverage
“Working in journalism is not a typical job,” said Robert Hernandez, a professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Journalism. “If she dealt with editorial, she ‘should have known,’ but in these modern, complex times the organization (KSDK) should have been clear and explicate.”
For years, newsrooms have struggled to strike a balance between an employee developing a strong, independent personal brand that can bring about positive attention and innovation, while at the same time trying to draw a boundary between acceptable and unacceptable online and personal conduct.
Ultimately, Hernandez says, the liberties newsroom employees take — whether directly involved in editorial or not — can yield consequences of which the employee, not the brand, is responsible.
“If I take a stand, it is a conscious choice I am making,” Hernandez said. “That choice can help or hurt my career.”
It is unclear if Gamble is still employed by KSDK, which is owned by the Gannett Corporation. Gamble did not return an inquiry from TheBlot sent via social media. In a follow-up e-mail, Danielski said the issue remains a personnel matter.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.