Sunday, January 25, 2009

To Print? Or Not to Print?

I want to introduce this blog post on the premise that journalism did not get the title of public and government watchdog by idly sitting by, politely asking for interviews and expecting a newsworthy story. Public enlightenment, as said by the SPJ Code of Ethics, did not come from journalism that was afraid to break a few rules. It was because journalists actively sought out corruption, asked the questions no one else would ask, pushed, probed, dug, researched, and published things hidden from the public eye that trust in the news arose. For it was three journalists inquiry from the Washington Post who exposed Jack Abramoff and his lobbying scandal through the use of investigative reporting. Many of governments wrong doings would go unnoticed if not for journalists pushing the envelope.

At that, what I found most disturbing about Meg Carter was her complete disregard for source/journalist confidentiality. It is upon this cornerstone that journalism is born. If sources do not trust journalists, they will no longer give privileged information to writers and story material will slowly fade away. What is most upsetting is that one journalist who violates this trust, potentially ruins rapport for journalists who follow. Take for example the police chief, your go-to-guy for the crime beat. If one journalists prints information given to him in confidence, potentially that police chief will no longer give inside information to reporters. Ruining a source for later journalists covering that jurisdiction. The sad thing, and something that I don't think many journalists consider, is the real harm they can cause sources that ask for something be kept off the record. Take for example Teresa Perrone, printing confidential information given to Mega ultimately cost a life. And it is my personal belief that no story, regardless of how groundbreaking, is worth a life.

No comments:

Post a Comment