7. lecture reporter's ethics (225) 032012


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A lecture on ethics for reporters from an online beginning journalism class at John Carroll University, Cleveland.

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7. lecture reporter's ethics (225) 032012

  1. 1. Reporter’s ethics Dr. Richard D. Hendrickson Journalism instructor John Carroll University Created 061805, updated 113011, 032012
  2. 2. What adults think of the press  Press 28% 70  Congress 22%* 60  Presidency 44% 50 40  Org religion 53% 30  Police 63% 20  HMOs 17% 10Source: Gallup Poll *More recently, 0 9% Cong Press Bush Relig Police HMOs
  3. 3. What do you think of the press?
  4. 4. Student views: 2003 January 2003, before U.S. invasion of Iraq.“The media should stop scaring everyone. They are constantly talking about how we are threatened. I think that if the media merely updated us, we would not be worrying about things so much.”“I don’t know enough about the conflict, and frankly feel no one in the class does. Bush and his top advisers are the only ones who know enough to make a decision. I support my government (officials) in whatever decision they make.”
  5. 5. Plagiarism and other behaviors  Jayson Blair at The New York Times  Stephen Glass (New Republic, 1998) Stephen Glass  Janet Cook (Washington Post, Jayson Blair 1980)
  6. 6. Returning a Pulitzer  Janet Cook wrote a compelling story of an 8-year-old boy she named only “Jimmy” caught in a world of drug abuse. Published in 1980, it won a Pulitzer Prize. Concerned people wanted to find and “save” the child. She eventually admitted she couldn’t prove he existed, but had used composite of descriptions from a number of cases. The Washington Post gave back the Pulitzer and she was fired.   She later claimed she was told about “Jimmy” from street sources but was unable to locate him and just created a story to satisfy editors who were pressuring her to produce something.   She dropped out of sight for a while, reappearing in 1986 for a GQ interview. The movie rights from that Janet Cook interview were eventually sold for $1.5 million.
  7. 7. Dan Rather’s mistake Rather Concedes Papers Are Suspect CBS Anchor Urges Media to Focus On Bush Service By Howard Kurtz Washington Post Staff Writer Washingtonpost.com Thursday, September 16, 2004; Page A01 CBS anchor Dan Rather acknowledged for the first time yesterday thatthere are serious questions about the authenticity of the documents heused to question President Bushs National Guard record last week on "60Minutes." "If the documents are not what we were led to believe, Id like to breakthat story," Rather said in an interview last night. "Any time Im wrong, Iwant to be right out front and say, Folks, this is what went wrong and howit went wrong. "
  8. 8. Dan Rather  Dan Rather at CBS: too eager to accept and air a letter critical of Bush’s National Guard record   It may have been true, but it wasn’t verified   Was Rather biased or did he just want to be first?
  9. 9. Unidentified source starts trouble  Newsweek quotes an unidentified source on report of Quran desecration at Guantanamo Bay prison, touching off a storm of controversy   Others had reported it earlier and the riots attributed to it had other roots, but the talk shows claim bias   Brings new awareness on use of unnamed sources   Good journalists know their sources and their reliability and grant anonymity only in extreme circumstances, such as when it is necessary to protect a whistleblower   But government officials often insist on anonymity
  10. 10. Newsweek backs off Quran desecration story WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Newsweek magazine backed awaySunday from a report that U.S. interrogators desecrated copies ofthe Quran while questioning prisoners at the Guantanamo Baynaval base -- an account blamed for sparking violent riots inAfghanistan and elsewhere. … In the story, the magazine cited sources as saying investigatorslooking into abuses at the military prison found interrogators "had placedQurans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down thetoilet.“ (Reporter Michael Isakoff) called a longtime reliable source, a seniorU.S. government official who was knowledgeable about the matter."The source told Isikoff that the [investigators] report would include newdetails that were not in the FBI e-mails, including mention of flushing theQuran down a toilet." (Editor Mark) Whitaker wrote that before publishing the account themagazine approached two Pentagon officials for comment. One declinedand the other challenged a different aspect of the report, Whitaker wrote.
  11. 11. Karl Rove “The press is less liberal than it is oppositional.”
  12. 12. Why reporters get into trouble  For Rather, it was the competition, the drive to get a scoop  For Blair and Glass, seeking esteem  For Cook, esteem and, perhaps, a wish to publicize the plight of children  For many journalists, the problem is simply a lack of time and resources to do the job.
  13. 13. What can we do about this?  Hold line between reporting and advocacy   A recent book by Jim Willis describes types of journalists. First on his list is the “Joe Friday” approach, “Just the facts, m’am.” Independent, no-nonsense, loyalty is to accuracy (not truth)   A danger of being ”stenographers,” blindly repeating what everyone says. The case of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. (Edward R. Morrow checked his claims and found errors.)  Follow a code of journalistic ethics
  14. 14. How do you decide your ethics?  1. Consult my core beliefs (drawn from family values, religion, philosophy, books I’ve read, courses I’ve taken and other personal experiences.)  2. Ask people I know (friends, family members, instructors, colleagues or coworkers, etc.)  3. Ask the “experts” (teachers, authors, etc.)θ 4. Examine professional codes of ethics (SPJ, NYT and others).
  15. 15. Three approaches to decisions  Values, rules and advice (I will do right because it’s right.)  Risks (I’ll do right because others could discover if I do wrong.)  Consequences (I will do right to keep my self-respect and avoid harm to others, including my profession or organization.)
  16. 16. Models of ethics  Family and faith   Expressed as conscience (feelings)  Rules of conduct and duty (Immanuel Kant)  Consider effects, treat others as you would wish to be treated (John Stuart Mill)  The end justifies the means (Niccolo Machiavelli)  Q. Can you think of others?
  17. 17. Classic  approaches  to  ethics  1.  NORMATIVE  (normal):  Pragmatic,  “what  works,”  utilitarian,   (Machiavelli:  end  justifies  means,  effects  not  important.  2.  DEONTOLOGICAL  (duty):  Kant:  Rules  we  are  bound  to   follow.  For  example,  tell  the  truth,  absolutely.  A  duty  to   report  whatever  is  “news.”  3.  TELEOLOGICAL  (total)  Mill:  Looking  at  the  bottom  line,  the   effects,  what’s  best  for  society  (or  the  media  organization).  4.  SUBJECTIVE:  (soul)  Going  through  the  angsts  of  deciding   what  is  right,  conscience,  God,  intuition,  emotion,  instinct,   moral  sense  that  seeks  right  actions.  
  18. 18. Ethical  news  values  Tenacity   Serve  the  audience     Know  where  to  go  and  work  hard  to  get  there   Commit  enough  resources     Put  readers  and  community  ahead  of  the  corporate  bottom  line   Use  them  wisely     Prefer  serious  news  for  gossip  and  fluff  
  19. 19. Ethical  news  values   Dignity  and  reciprocity   Respect  the  people  in  your  stories     Leave  your  targets  with  as  much  self-­‐respect  as  possible   Respect  co-­‐workers,  competitors     Newsgathering  and  production  is  a  cooperative  effort   employing  the  talents  of  all  involved   Treat  others  as  you  would  yourself     Avoid  arrogance  and  benevolent  paternalism  
  20. 20. Ethical  news  values   Sufficiency  and  equity   Get  all  the  facts  and  perspectives  first     Find  out  how  things  are  supposed  to  work,  look  at  the  documents,  and   listen  to  all  perspectives  before  you  decide  what  the  story  will  be   Consider  all  points  of  view     Giving  “equal  treatment  to  a  wise  man  and  a  fool”  
  21. 21. Ethical  news  values   Community  and  diversity   Value  social  cohesion     Media  outlets  should  think  of  themselves  as  citizens  rather  than   merely  “profit  centers”     Individuals  should  evaluate  stories  with  an  eye  first  to  social   good   Cover  all  parts  of  the  audience  fairly     News  organizations  should  look  like  the  society  they  cover     Ethical  news  values  lecture  outline  inspired  by  Philip  Patterson,  and  Lee  Wilkins,  Media   Ethics  Issues  &  Cases,  4th  Edition.  Boston:  McGraw  Hill  Higher  Education,  2002,  31-­‐32.  
  22. 22. Follow the SPJ code of ethics  Follow the SPJ code of ethics   Four principles: Seek truth and report it, Minimize harm, Act independently and Be accountable.  Educate journalists of today and tomorrow   Journalists should study Ethics & the Media   Poynter Institute sponsors research and education for professional journalists   Who will guide the “bloggers?” Perhaps SPJ   And what about “citizen journalists?”
  23. 23. The SPJ Code of Ethics  Seek Truth and Report It   Minimize Harm   Journalists should be   Ethical journalists treat honest, fair and sources, subjects and courageous in colleagues as human gathering, reporting and beings deserving of interpreting information respect.
  24. 24. SPJ Code of Ethics (continued)  Act Independently   Be Accountable   Journalists should be   Journalists are free of obligation to any accountable to their interest other than the readers, listeners, publics right to know. viewers and each other.
  25. 25. Wall Street rules the media  The media is a business   More and more news organizations are owned by Wall Street investors who seek short-term profit   It’s ok to expect financial success, as long as its goal is to assure independence (Jim Lonergan, Lorain Journal GM)   The drive for market share means more celebrity gossip, sensationalism and sex, or a lot more fluff, instead of serious reporting on politics and economics
  26. 26. What of the future?   Back to the “stenography” of the McCarthy era? If reporters don’t ask hard questions, who will, the partisan screamers on TV?   Reporters as the eyes and ears of citizens, when citizens can’t be there, but the press must be educated and accurate or lose credibility.
  27. 27. One commentator’s assessment  The “lazy, timid, intimidated, favor- and status- currying media is not doing its basic job: covering news and providing the context for people to make up their minds.”   Denis Horgan, a travel editor’s personal weblog
  28. 28. Still a lot solid reporting  Every day journalists somewhere educate readers and make a difference. Two examples:   The New York Times ran a series in 2005 about people who represent changing classes in America (see list of articles below)   A three-year investigation by the Spokesman Review exposed allegations of child-molestation by Spokane, WA, mayor (the response of some, sadly, was ”He has been an effective mayor.”
  29. 29.   ABOUT THE SERIES This series explores how class influences destiny in America. • Day 1: Overview • Day 2: Health • Day 3: Marriage • Day 4: Religion • Day 5: Education • Day 6: Immigration Angela Whitiker with her youngest • Day 7: New Status Markers child, Christopher, 10, in Chicago • Day 8: The Relo Class earlier this spring • Day 9: The Hyper-Rich • Day 10: Class and Culture Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times • Day 11: Up From the Projects
  30. 30. Four recent cases “The Runaway General” The NPR “sting” British phone hacking Wikileaks
  31. 31. The Runaway General  Michael Hastings, a reporter on assignment for Rolling Stone, spent time with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff in Europe, then wrote a story that quoted them as saying “impolitic” things about President Obama.   After “The Runaway General” appeared in the July 8-22, 2010, edition of the magazine, McChrystal was relieved of his command of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  Five months later, Army Times offered a critique that said “almost all” of the remarks were made by the general’s junior staff, who had no reason to believe their comments would end up in print, or were made in “off the record” settings.   Army Times also quoted “sources familiar with the trip,” including McChrystal’s spokesperson, as saying the magazine publicly misrepresented its communications with McChrystal’s headquarters after the story was reported but before it went to print.
  32. 32. The NPR “sting”  James O’Keefe, a Conservative political operator, used a hidden camera to record his conversations with an NPR fundraising executive, then edited it to highlight questionable statements out-of-context.   The NPR guy thought he was meeting Muslim donors. He made anti-Republican and anti-Tea Party statements  O’Keefe called it “investigative journalism.” Critics pointed out that he used false identities and misleading editing.   He had earlier used such techniques to expose troubling responses from staffers of ACORN, a non-profit voter registration group, and Planned Parenthood.
  33. 33. British phone hacking  A private investigator hired by the British weekly “News of the World” hacked into the cell phones of celebrities and crime victims, and the paper published stories about what they revealed.   In one case, the paper listened to the voice mail messages left on the cell phone of a missing teen, deleting some of them to make room for more to give them fresh material for stories. The deletions gave the girl’s parents false hope that she was still alive, while she had already been murdered.   The scandal led owner Rupert Murdoch to shut down the 168- year-old Sunday tabloid and the indictment of its top editors.
  34. 34. WikiLeaks wins an award  WikiLeaks was handed stolen U.S. diplomatic cables and posted them on the Web.   Was that “journalism?”   Apparently the Australian organization that gives out that country’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize thought so. It gave WikiLeaks its 2011 Walkley Award for “most outstanding contribution to journalism.”   Newt Gingrich called Julian Assange, head of WikiLeaks, an “enemy combatant” and said his media scoops amounted to “information terrorism.”
  35. 35. Discussion  Taking these four incidents, McChrystal, NPR, the British hacking and Wikileaks, consider the following questions.   Did “the end justified the means” in each case?   Would you sanction the behavior (or accept the information) and publish the stories?   Do provisions of the SPJ Code of Ethics apply in each case?   Were any of these legitimate examples of “investigative reporting? Why or why not?   Are these strictly ethical problems or do they have First Amendment (or free speech) dimensions?