But I do want to revisit briefly the “outing” of high school English teacher Judy Buranich as the author Judy Mays. I first wrote about this Wednesday afternoon when one of our authors sent me a link to the story and told me to check twitter because it was ablaze with outrage over how Buranich was being treated. I joined a number of others in wondering exactly where along the line WNEP and its reporters and editors forgot the meaning of the words “ethics” and “journalistic integrity”.
Since then, I’m still shaking my head in wonder and applauding those students and former students and their parents who have come out in support of Ms. Buranich. I also took the time to watch the video of the original story as well as the follow-up.
The original story opens with the newsreader sitting at the anchor desk. Behind him on the screen is a cover from one of Mays’ novels with the graphic “Hot for Teacher” overlaid like a title. When they cut to video, we see a group of four women sitting on a bench swing and a couple of chairs. It’s the sort of scene you’d expect from middle America — all wholesome and good. And then they start talking. One of the mothers expresses her outrage that anyone would write “such stuff”. She doesn’t read it you see. So I guess that means no one else should either. I almost fell out of my chair when she worried that her son might be sitting in class, wondering if Ms. Buranich is “looking at him a certain way?” Okay, number one, that comes awfully close to saying Buranich is a pedophile. My only response to that is a resounding “WTF?!?”
Another mother is concerned about doing what’s best for the “children in school right now.” Of course, she conveniently forgets about the First Amendment. She forgets about the fact that this teacher had done nothing to promote her books in the classroom. There has been no allegation that she spoke with her students in, or out, of class about what she did away from school. No, all that matters is that she writes novels these few women don’t approve of.
After outrage hit their facebook page, and what appeared to be — at least to me and a number of others — an attempt to censor the negative responses, WNEP did a follow-up to the story. No, it isn’t an apology, far from it. But it does show a group of Ms. Buranich’s supporters. These include not only parents but former students. According to the story, some 20 supporters turned out (and there are not more than 5,000 supporters on the Buranich/Mays facebook page). I was impressed by what the former students had to say. One of them commented that “everyone” has known about Ms. Buranich’s writing career for quite some time. Another called her one of the best teachers in the district. Still, the WNEP had to add its touch of salaciousness to the story by continuing to use terms like “racy novelist”. So much for even-handed reporting.
As far as I’m concerned, if Ms. Buranich didn’t promote her books in the classroom and didn’t do anything to violate her contract, then this is nothing more than a non-news item a station has used in the worst way to drum up ratings without giving a damn about how it impacts Buranich, her career or her students.
If you want to read more, or find out how you can best support Buranich, I recommend you check out S. V. Rowle’s blog here.