Ethics and NewspapersDiscussion About the Jayson Blair Episode and What It Means To Us Warren Watson Arizona State University 2012
What is Ethics?• The discipline dealing with what is right and wrong and with moral duty and obligation.• A set of moral principles or values. To be ethical is to conform to accepted professional standards of conduct
Ethics: What a Time!• Jayson Blair -- a 7,500-word bloodletting in The New York Times after dozens of Blair indiscretions and fabrications• Manipulated photos in the Los Angeles Times• Salt Lake City reporters selling stories to the National Enquirer• The Glass book
What of the Latest Problem:Rick Bragg and Uncredited ‘Helpers?’
Hearst, Pulitzer: The Journalism of Personality
‘Destructionof the war shipMaine was thework of theenemy’‘Reward for theconviction ofthe criminalswho sent sailorsto their death’
500 Percent Growth• Hearst’s New York Journal enjoyed circulation growth of 500 percent in 1902-03:• “ The new journalism easily became yellow journalism, fraudulent and sensationalistic, selling violence, sex and scandal, and preoccupied with nothing but circulation.” circulation.” --- Sharon Boswell, historian
1920s: A March Toward Ethics• In 1922, the American Society of Newspaper Editors adopted the first Code of Ethics and Canons of Journalism in the history of newspapers.• Important concepts: “A high trust,” “Honest journalism,” “Accuracy,” “Impartiality,” “Decency,” “Fair play.”
Growing Professionalism• Franklin Roosevelt• Press associations (AP, UPI)• Journalism education• Woodward and Bernstein• But a growing competition with TV, radio and the Internet by century’s end
The Pressure to Get it First ……The Pressure to Get it Right!
• Janet Cooke (at right) 1981-98: fabricates “Jimmy’s World” Infamous in the Post and forfeits a Pulitzer Indiscretions• Chiquita Banana and Gannett• Glass’s fictional non-fiction in The New Republic• The Boston Globe makes it all up: Patricia Smith, Mike Barnicle (right)• Renewed calls to prosecute the story
What About the Business? What About Eroding Credibility?“Why didn’t more of the subjects ofhis (Blair) dozens of bogus storiescomplain? … Are some readers sojaundiced about the press that theyno longer even expect us to get stuffright. Do they assume we just makeit up? Ouch.” --- Jonathan Alter, Newsweek columnist
And What of the Deposed Howell Raines?• How much of a factor was his almost arrogant, “unrelenting ferocity,” in the words of Newsweek?• Is workplace culture at the Times a factor in this credibility crisis?• What about your workplace culture?
What Are the Lessons of Jayson Blair? What Can We Take Away for the Newspaper as a Whole? How Do You Maintain an Ethical Workplace?
Some of Your Ethicical Issues• Undercharges at the Record-Eagle• Stealing coupon inserts• Role of the reporter and photographer• Fairness in hiring• Dealing with the big advertiser (auto dealer)