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KPLR's Melanie Moon defends hugging man whose murder conviction was overturned

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Melanie Moon with Ryan Ferguson, shortly after his release from prison

Claiming that media bias "can serve the public good," KPLR (Channel 11) anchor/reporter Melanie Moon is defending her actions surrounding the coverage of the Ryan Ferguson case.

Moon — who covered the case in which Ferguson was freed Tuesday after serving 10 years for the murder of a Columbia newspaper editor — hugged both Ferguson and his father after Ferguson's release on Tuesday.

Moon's reports on the release and Ferguson's first full day out of prison were broadcast on both KPLR and KTVI (Channel 2).

Moon also has posted a photo of her and Ferguson on her KPLR Facebook page, with Ferguson's arm around her shoulder.

"This is a very unique story, and I got very close to him," Moon said in an interview Thursday. "There is a lot of emotion with it."

Asked if she thought the hugs brought her objectivity into question, Moon replied, "It's impossible to be objective on this. It was clearly and blatantly an injustice."

Moon also said that such actions "depend on the story. We're people first and reporters second."

When asked if this flap has caused her to rethink her reportorial behavior, she replied, "I'll be more careful of what I tweet; I'll keep some of those thoughts to myself."

According to JimRomenesko.com, a journalism watchdog blog, Moon said on Twitter:

"I hugged both. In some cases media biases, based in a strong sense of right & wrong, serve the public good!"

The tweet was in response to a previous posting from retired Associated Press reporter Scott Charton, who mentioned he saw a reporter hugging Ferguson's father and questioned whether such actions by a reporter were inappropriate.

Moon then engaged in a Twitter debate with Charton; Joy Mayer, a Mizzou journalism professor and director of community outreach for the Columbia Missourian newspaper; and Renee Hulshof, a talk-radio host at KFRU-AM 1400 in Columbia. Hulshof's husband, ex-U.S. congressman Kenneth Hulshof, was a former prosecutor who had at least two cases overturned on judicial review.

In one response, Moon said the case was not just about the law but "most definitely is about innocence & prosecutorial misconduct!"

Charton chimed in with, "Pardon me: It's about journalists crossing the line of impartiality."

Mayer also created a Storify rundown that included some of the tweets from the parties, as well as Mayer's opinion about the issue.

(The Post-Dispatch and KTVI have a partnership in which some of the station's video is available on the P-D website. None of Moon's coverage of Ferguson's release is on the website, though the site does contain Moon's jailhouse interview with Ferguson on a Nov. 5 story about the case.)

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