The Death of Ethics?  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Letters
From AJR,   August/September 2004

The Death of Ethics?   


I really enjoyed your story regarding news slop and misdeeds ("'We Mean Business,'" June/July).

To be honest, I saw it coming long ago. One of the reasons I left reporting was that I noticed journalists were being replaced by egotists. I then taught for 10 years and realized, from the reports of my graduates, that it had become slop.

I now advise every news source I meet to: (1) tape record every conversation with any journalist and raise hell and sue if misquoted; (2) challenge twisted "indirect" quotes and question stories that rarely cite actual quotes — a sign the reporter was too lazy or sloppy or, heaven forbid, they twisted the information intentionally.

It is in many ways a tragic time for journalism. The White House press corps, with the exception of Helen Thomas, is viewed as a group of cowards and apologists. Many now see the news media not as an independent watchdog but as a sheepish, frightened lapdog.

Fred Talbott
Professor
Owen Graduate School of Management
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tennessee

I have been involved in journalism at the professional level since high school, doing internships and freelance, and never once had I ever had any inkling to sink to Jack Kelley's or Jayson Blair's level of laziness and faulty journalism. I am now in my first reporting position, which I landed seven months after graduation.

My whole problem with Blair (and Kelley), besides their unethical principles, is that they seem to represent new journalists. Good journalists, like me, although we are perhaps not as experienced, are not being offered the opportunities to enhance their careers because of so-called "professionals" like Kelly and Blair. I can't say that I blame editors, though, of being suspicious or distrusting of applicants' clips and résumés, or even their own reporters' stories that float across their desks.

But how many ethical, talented reporters were turned down to fill the spots Blair and Kelley had? And what stories might they have uncovered if given the proper chance?

Journalism is about credibility and earning the audience's trust. I would never jeopardize my audience's trust and my paper's credibility for the sake of a "better" story, or worse, a "better" quote. I hope I'm not the only new journalist with this basic standard to be ethical in our profession.

Carolynne Fitzpatrick
Staff writer
The Gazette
Mount Airy, Maryland


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