Tweet and Delete: How KPLR's Melanie Moon Got Facts Wrong on Ryan Ferguson's Release

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click to enlarge Melanie Moon poses with Ryan Ferguson, who was freed after ten years in prison. - Melanie Moon on Facebook
Melanie Moon on Facebook
Melanie Moon poses with Ryan Ferguson, who was freed after ten years in prison.

A Twitter conversation about the ethics of reporters hugging their sources went off the tracks Wednesday when KPLR (Channel 11) anchor Melanie Moon joined in to advocate for a recently freed prisoner based on factually inaccurate information.

Moon, known for investing herself emotionally (and publicly) into local stories, has closely covered the case of Ryan Ferguson, who served ten years in prison for the murder of a Columbia journalist -- a murder he says he did not commit. The contentious case drew international attention when Ferguson was freed this week after the court vacated his charges because prosecutors withheld information from his lawyers.

Before Ferguson's first press conference as a free man, Joy Mayer, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, says she gave her student journalists a heads up:

"Remember that people are going to be really excited, and it's going to feel like a celebration," she remembers saying. "Your role is to cover that and not to personally celebrate."

Mayer was right. The Associated Press likened the press conference to an election night watch party -- full of cheering and excitement.

Moon, who traveled from St. Louis to Columbia to cover Ferguson's release, hugged him and his father at the press conference. Her action promoted a few tweets from curious onlookers: Moon eagerly admits the hug.Then things get bizarre. Watch the conversation devolve into confusion and read the tweets Moon has since deleted after the jump.

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