It's not a question likely to get much local media play, especially in the wake of yet another Atlanta-based journalist being arrested for driving under the influence. But maybe it should.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, 11Alive traffic reporter and Atlanta Hawks sideline reporter Elle Duncan was arrested on Piedmont Road after a Georgia State Patrol officer witnessed her silver Mercedes "weaving in and out of traffic in a reckless manner."
According to Rodney Ho of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Duncan worked an Atlanta Hawks' playoff game earlier that Saturday night and partied at the Buckhead Bottle & Bistro. She blew a .099, according to the police report, which was above the legal limit of 0.08. She's since issued a public statement claiming "full responsibility" for her actions. Meanwhile, her mugshot makes its way around the blogs.
Of course, this comes in the wake of longtime news anchor Amanda Davis' retirement announcement last week on Fox 5. After 26 years, it was her first - and last - appearance on the network since her DUI arrest last fall following a wrong-way accident on Piedmont Ave. Her trial is pending. On the national level, broadcasting news legend Sam Donaldson faces a similar fate as his DUI trial is set to begin in June.
In 2009, Duncan, a former on-air personality at Atlanta radio station V103, filled the slot of that station's former midday host, Porsche Foxx, who'd waged her own public battle with alcohol and drug usage dating back to a 2004 DUI arrest and subsequent termination. She was terminated from V103 for the second time in 2008 for unspecified reasons.
After Amanda Davis' DUI arrest, there were some who suggested it could be used as an opportunity to have a transparent conversation with viewers about the deadly ills of drinking and driving. But during Davis' retirement announcement last week, there was no specific mention of her DUI. While the incident probably went unspoken for legal reasons, it did make for a respectful farewell to the career of one of Atlanta's most respected broadcasters. Yet it also reflected our inability as a society to deal publicly with such sensitive issues.
If being a broadcast journalist means being a community role model and being a community role model means being held to a higher standard, then shouldn't one's redemption be as public as his or her shaming? While it's clear that people who break laws and endanger lives should be held accountable, the rush to erase such high-profile offenders from the spotlight without witnessing their transformation seems like it's hurting us more than helping us.
That's certainly not what happens in the case of real celebrities. Remember the community service crusade T.I. went on as a result of his reduced federal gun sentence? Sure, he still had to serve some prison time. But he also returned to his high-profile line of work upon completing his sentence. And if his current VH1 reality show "T.I.'s Family Hustle" (now in its third season) offers any proof, he's a better man for it. If T.I.'s fans have had the opportunity to watch him evolve as a human, isn't that something some of our best broadcasters should be allowed to do after personal failures, too? By losing them altogether, we have nothing to gain.
For anyone who still needs full disclosure at this point, yes, I'm a print journalist. So maybe I am a tad bit biased. Unfortunately, I've seen enough journalists up close to know that they, we, are all pretty much human. If there's an example to be made of any of us, perhaps it should be for the benefit of us all.
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