Kaitlin Bennett, the proclaimed “Kent State gun girl,” received a not so warm welcome last week when she visited Ohio University.
Bennett frequently visits college campuses to conduct interviews for Liberty Hangout and serves as a contributor for InfoWars, a far-right multimedia outlet founded by Alex Jones.
Liberty Hangout, co-founded by Bennett and her fiance, is a “right-libertarian digital media outlet that features both informational and opinionated content across a wide variety of media types,” according to the organization description on the Kent State website.
Bennett’s informal interviews cover controversial topics such as abortion, safe spaces and gender rights. However, these “interviews” are the furthest thing from journalism.
So, let’s get one thing clear: Kaitlin Bennett needs to stop hiding behind the thinly veiled guise of “journalist.”
On Twitter, Bennett labeled herself as a “conservative journalist,” but tying your political beliefs into journalism negates itself. True journalists don’t aim to prove a point, rather they strive for objectivity and transparency in the pursuit of truth, according to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. However, political slant is what some media outlets like CNN and FOX News are focusing on.
A Pew Research poll identified how news audiences were becoming much more politicized all the way back in 2004. In the struggle to get views and stay relevant, news organizations are compromising their integrity. All things considered, news organizations are in the business to make a profit, and outrage makes money.
Or in simpler terms, as Bennett tweeted, “Haters pay the bills.”
Whenever and wherever Bennett approaches possible interviewees (campuses, beaches, Pride parades or women’s marches), it’s her agenda to get a reaction out of them. When asking questions, she aggressively inserts bias, uses straw-man fallacies or ambushes them without providing any context for the subject to answer upon. She instigates them, and if they give an answer she disagrees with, she’s ready to either attack or play the victim.
These baiting tactics are unethical.
“An ethical journalist reports the news without bias,” said Jessica Wade, a reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, a UNO alumna and former Gateway editor-in-chief. “We work to inform, not incite a reaction, gain followers or entertain.”
The Liberty Hangout style of reporting involves humiliating and aggravating people as a form of entertainment. After I watched several videos, I gathered that Bennett pretends to want to know what people’s thoughts are about polarized issues, but what she really wants is attention.
Bennett is entitled to her own opinions. It’s her First Amendment right to have those opinions and share them. However, you must be able to separate yourself from those political beliefs once you become a journalist.
Bennett advocates for her right to free speech, yet she interrupts people when they do not share the same stances as herself. She’ll purse her lips into a smirk or raise her eyebrows, all while belittling anyone for having a different opinion than her own. These are not effective or ethical interviewing skills.
On Twitter she called the Ohio State protestors, “mentally ill college students that act like children” and vows to return with an “army of gun owners” to open carry through campus. Her statement shows that she’s intolerant to how others’ exercise their freedom of speech and that they are “mentally ill” if they protest her presence.
You can have political opinions, but you also need to realize that your opinions could harm others. Liberty Hangout does not hide their political beliefs, but in order to be a real “digital media outlet” they need to clearly indicate what content is “informational and opinionated.”
We also need to take on the responsibility of being critical media consumers.
“There’s a lot of media out there,” Wade said. “It’s important to acknowledge what is entertainment or editorialized and what is the news.”
The best way to protest Kaitlin Bennett is to never think about her again. Don’t argue with her, instead ignore her. In order for her brand to survive, she needs to be viral and constantly in your face. Let’s let the lack of attention make her disappear into Internet oblivion.