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The Journalist’s Toolbox – Ethics, Taste, Sensitivity . Current Affairs Quiz 4. Private Lynndie England was found guilty of what? With all the hurricanes, what might we run out of this year? What is Israel doing in Gaza? Why? Renee Zellweger is seeking what from Kenny Chesney?

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The Journalist’s Toolbox – Ethics, Taste, Sensitivity

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current affairs quiz 4
Current Affairs Quiz 4
  • Private Lynndie England was found guilty of what?
  • With all the hurricanes, what might we run out of this year?
  • What is Israel doing in Gaza?
  • Why?
  • Renee Zellweger is seeking what from Kenny Chesney?
  • What reason does she give?
  • Why was Vice President Cheney in the hospital?
  • Gainesville is considering banning whom from large parts of the city?
  • After the arrest of UT fans before the big game, public opinion has been urging that the city do what?
common problems of ethics
Common Problems of Ethics
  • Plagiarism
    • Using someone else’s work without permission or credit
  • Misrepresentation
    • Deception in gathering or telling information
  • Issues of taste and sensitivity
    • As regards such things as photos, graphic depictions, free press/fair trial.
    • The Wheaties Test
  • Gifts, junkets, and meals
Jack Kelley, USA Today war correspondent, resigned after he was accused of having fabricated numerous stories.
  • Jayson Blair, a 27-year-old rising star at the New York Times, fired in 2003 after he was caught fabricating stories and quotes about the Washington-area sniper case and the Pfc. Jessica Lynch story. Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd resigned after failing to catch the fraud.
Christopher Newton, an Associated Press reporter, was fired in 2002 for allegedly fabricating sources in more than 30 stories.
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of the 1987 book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, admitted in 2002 that she took passages from three authors. She blamed it on sloppy note-taking.
  • Marcia Stepanekwas fired by Business Week in 2001 for allegedly lifting a story from the Washington Post on Pharmatrak. She denied the allegations, claiming she never read the Post story.
Michael Finkel, a free-lancer who produced a story in 2001 for the New York Times Magazine about slaves in Mali, confessed to numerous inaccuracies in the story. Four months later, in 2002, the Times issued an apology.
  • Julie Amparano, a former Arizona Republic columnist, was fired in 1999 after suspicions grew that she fabricated sources. Amparano claimed the paper couldn't track down her sources because they were street people who were hard to find. In 2001 she launched the online publication
Stephen Glass, a 25-year-old former superstar at the New Republic, fabricated quotes, sources and stories to rise to the top. He attempted to substantiate his wrongdoing by inventing phony business cards, creating a bogus Website and crafting notes from interviews that never took place. His con ended in 1998 when a Forbes online reporter unmasked the serial liar's "Hack Heaven" story as a fraud. Glass received a six-figure advance for his novel, The Fabulist, a fictional account of a reporter whose lies end his career. The book bombed.
  • Ruth Shalit, in 1995, confessed to plagiarizing stories at the New Republic. She quit and now works at an ad agency.
former ou journalism student joe eszterhas
Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Joe Eszterhas fictionalized a news story about the wife and children of a man killed in a bridge collapse.

His story led to Cantrell v. Forest City Publishing Co. (1974), a false light invasion of privacy lawsuit.

Mrs. Cantrell was not present during his visit to her home.

Former OU Journalism Student Joe Eszterhas
former ou journalism student joe eszterhas10
Former OU Journalism Student Joe Eszterhas
  • Eszterhas wrote:
    • “Margaret Cantrell will talk neither about what happened nor about how they are doing. She wears the same mask of non-expression she wore at the funeral. She is a proud woman. Her world has changed. She says that after it happened, the people in town offered to help them out with money and they refused to take it.”
  • Other significant misrepresentations were contained in details of Eszterhas' descriptions of the poverty in which the Cantrells were living and the dirty and dilapidated conditions of the Cantrell home.
former ou journalism student joe eszterhas11
Eszterhas recognized that his flair for fiction made him better suited to a different career.

He thus became a once-hot screenwriter of such movies as “Flashdance,” “Jagged Edge,” “Basic Instinct.”

Former OU Journalism Student Joe Eszterhas
Janet Cooke, a Washington Post reporter, won a Pulitzer in 1981 for a story about Jimmy, an 8-year-old heroin addict. The boy didn't exist, and Cooke was forced to return the prize. She resigned from the Post and headed to France in 1985. In 1996 she was earning $6 an hour as a counter clerk for Liz Claiborne in Kalamazoo, Mich. Cooke subsequently sold her movie rights for a six-figure sum, but the film was never made.
          • Compilation from Insight on the News (unhidden source)
copy editors as sentries
Copy Editors as Sentries
  • Janet Cooke’s fraud prompted a crusade by William G. Connolly, a former senior editor at the NYT.
  • His crusade:
  • Helping copy editors on the front lines of protecting the truth.
  • Connolly uses the manuscript of "Jimmy's World" in a seminar he calls "How a Copy Editor Could Have Averted Disaster."
  • In it, he shows how editors should have seen the inconsistencies and implausible situations and descriptions in Cooke's article.
copy editors as sentries14
Copy Editors as Sentries
  • Copy editors should learn to focus and look for minefields and anything suspicious that needs checking.
  • He also wants to give copy editors the courage to ask questions.
  • According to Connolly:
    • "Any responsible copy editor, faced with the kind of questions 'Jimmy's World' raises, would stop in his or her tracks.“*

Adapted from: “Beyond the Bounds: When to speak up, and why” on Poynteronline

the changing world of journalism
The Changing World of Journalism
  • With onslaught of online media:
    • Copy editors face challenges regarding ethics and getting a good story into the paper.
    • Bend Bulletin v. Online Site
making ethical decisions

Making Ethical Decisions

Who is Matt Drudge?

ethics in the drudge report
Ethics in the Drudge Report
  • It’s more important for a story to be interesting than true.
  • Reporting scandals is good business.
  • It’s OK to pay your sources.
  • It’s OK to use information that has been obtained illegally.
sensitivity to fair trial issues
Sensitivity to fair trial issues
  • Journalists want to publish all they can about the prosecution of serious crimes.
  • Prior to a trial there is a lot of information available in court documents and other statements that are public records.
  • Editors also know that most of these cases will end up in court in front of a jury drawn from the readers of a community’s newspaper.
  • Journalists also are aware the sometime all or part of the information in these documents may not be admitted as evidence.
example 1
Example 1
  • In 2000, Robert Lawrence Staudinger was charged with killing three people and later pleaded guilty.
  • Before that, Staudinger made highly incriminating statements to police when he was arrested.
  • Those statements were available in court files.
  • The paper I worked for did not publish those statements because:
    • we assumed there would be a trial
    • that publising that info could compromise Staudinger's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial
  • Later, my paper did cover hearings about those statements because:
    • Both sides were represented.
    • But we did not try to get those statements into the newspaper unchallenged.
example 2
Example 2
  • This arose again a couple years later.
  • Adam Thomas and four other teen-agers were accused of killing Thomas' mother.
  • Thomas also made incriminating remarks
  • But my paper did not report them until a hearing was held to consider whether they could be used in a trial.
  • Nothing stopped us from doing so.
  • But we did not want to threaten someone's right to a fair trial.
this comes up often in the media
This comes up often in the media
  • Some other examples from just my own experience:
  • Three sisters molested
  • Native elder charged with molestation
  • Identifying rape victims
  • Identifying those accused of rape
  • Identifying juvenile criminal suspects
  • Identifying victims of crime
  • Identifying witnesses to crime
ask these 10 questions to make good ethical decisions
Ask These 10 Questions to Make Good Ethical Decisions

By Bob Steele – Poynteronline

1. What do I know? What do I need to now?

2. What is my journalistic purpose? 

3. What are my ethical concerns?

4. What organizational policies and professional guidelines should I consider?

5. How can I include other people, with different perspectives and diverse ideas, in the decision-making process?

10 questions
10 Questions

6. Who are the stakeholders -- those affected by my decision? What are their motivations? Which are legitimate?

7. What if the roles were reversed? How would I feel if I were in the shoes of one of the stakeholders?

8. What are the possible consequences of my actions? Short term? Long term?

9. What are my alternatives to maximize my truthtelling responsibility and minimize harm?

10. Can I clearly and fully justify my thinking and my decision? To my colleagues? To the stakeholders? To the public?

role of copy editor
Role of Copy Editor
  • Simply put, the copy editor must establish the same relationship with a reporter as he or she does with the reader.
  • The copy editor should be an advocate for the reader, to insist that the reporter tell the story simply and cleanly. And sometimes that may mean be assertive -- but diplomatic.
  • That means, of course, that the copy editor who is used to putting time in front of a computer screen rather than caring about the overall package in the paper, who cares more about the speed of copy flow than the readers, has to rethink the job.
  • "I urge all of you to be good advocates in your newsrooms.“

-- John Carroll, former editor of the L.A. Times

before we go
Before We Go
  • This has not a lot to do with copy editing or writing for print media.
  • But it still required a focused, ethically sensitive editor.
did starbucks screw up
Did Starbucks Screw Up?
  • To some this was clearly offensive after 9/11
  • To others this image is innocuous
  • What do you think?
new york post june 18th 2002 starbucks yanks ad mocking 9 11
New York Post, June 18th 2002:“Starbucks Yanks Ad Mocking 9/11”

"As a New Yorker who watched the whole [Sept. 11] incident outside my window…seeing the poster in Starbucks directly across from Ground Zero adds some resonance that perhaps the people in Seattle did not grasp," fumed customer Gregory Moore, who first complained to the Post.

starbucks response
Starbucks response

"We deeply regret if this ad was in any way misinterpreted to be insensitive or offensive, as this was never our intent. The poster, promoting Tazo Citrus and Tazoberry beverages, was designed to create a magical place using bright colors and whimsical elements such as palm trees and dragonflies."

Starbucks Press Release 6/16/2002