A Fox News commentator reported an item with the provocative headline Georgia School Confiscates Christmas Cards.
Sounds crazy, right? Todd Starnes of Fox News wrote of a "Christmas card censorship" on the part of the Bulloch County (Ga.) Board of Education. Starnes wrote:
For as long as anyone can remember, teachers at Brooklet Elementary School have posted Christmas cards in the hallways outside their classrooms – until Monday.
When boys and girls returned from Thanksgiving break, they discovered that their teachers’ Christmas cards had been removed – under orders from the Georgia school’s administration.
An amazing story, if it was accurate. Starnes apparently neglected to seek out anyone for Bulloch County schools for confirmation of the claims. That, it turns out, proved to be a mistake. Journalism rides to the rescue:
TV station WSAV reports:
The Bulloch Co. School District is fighting back after they say a false news report was filed by a Fox News Radio commentator about Brooklet Elementary confiscating Christmas cards. The article alleges the teachers' cards were removed by administrators as an act of censorship as the Bulloch County Board of Education is having ongoing conversations about religious expression in schools.
The Principal of Brooklet, Marlin Baker, said that is not the case. Baker said it's a faculty tradition to hang staff Christmas cards up on a poster. Usually the poster hangs out in the hallway for students to see but Baker said one of the teachers had a privacy issue so the poster was moved into the faculty work room. School staff said when the poster was moved on Monday that it didn't even have any Christmas cards on it.
"The decision to move the poster had nothing, absolutely nothing, at all to do with any type of religious conversation that is going on in the county," said Marlin.
Sounds like worthwhile context, no? Not to the Fox reporter. As of Thursday, Starnes' update of the story includes a comment from the district yet fails to mention the privacy concerns. Turns out this isn't Starnes' first case of journalistic malpractice.
In November, Steve Buttry examined a case in which, according to Buttry, Starnes lifted the work of another reporter and then:
- Picked up his story without credit.
- Boasted of a supposed result without sharing credit.
- Ignored an opportunity to correct an inaccuracy (which turns it from an error to a lie).
- Arrogantly blocked someone trying to converse with him.