Saturday, February 28, 2009

Photos of soldiers' coffins

Adam posted last week about the ethics of showing coffins of soldiers returning to the US. The decision to ban photographs of them has been enforced since the first President Bush's term and was reversed by President Obama.

Here's a Poynter column about the ethical issues surrounding the decision to show or not to show the coffins.


Photos of Soldiers' Coffins Increase Understanding Through Visual Storytelling

War is about heroism and about horror. War reflects battles won and lives lost. As citizens who send our military men and women into combat, we must comprehend the commitment, the courage and the cost. We must grasp what it means when our fighters fall. We must try to understand the pain that people endure when losing loved ones who wore uniforms -- our uniforms -- in warfare.

Talk about good night and good luck! What a week

Howard Kurtz, a Washington Post columnist who covers media, writes a good column today about the shell-shock many readers, journalists (and students) are feeling. Here's an excerpt, with the rest of the column here.

Newspaper shutdown rattles struggling industry

WASHINGTON — Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper recalls getting "a feeling in the pit of my stomach" when he learned that the Rocky Mountain News was shutting down.

"Even when they were uncovering corruption in the city, even when they were embarrassing us or causing us discomfort, they were making the city better," he says. "It's a huge loss."


Tom Fiedler, the Miami Herald's former executive editor, says that if that paper folds — McClatchy Newspapers is looking for a buyer — "nobody else will step in and do the occasionally extraordinary reporting that newspapers do. The difference that a good newspaper makes to the quality of life in any community is vital. It's like a healthy heart."

At a time when such companies as General Motors, Home Depot and Citigroup are ordering mass layoffs, the loss of 12,000 newspaper jobs last year may seem small. But the industry's woes — plunging advertising revenue, declining circulation and burgeoning high-tech competition — seem to be worsening by the week.


Objectivity is definitely an appropriate standard in journalism. Standard being what we, as journalists, should reach for. However, this is hard to do. We all come from different backgrounds with different ethics, so of course we have our personal filters and we give news on what we believe is news.

I am not sure what I would do in a situation where my friend is maligned. I would like to say I would try to reach for a greater moral goal, but I’d have to be faced with that decision in order to make it. A friend is personal. You have a face to what you’re hurting, and that would be the hardest thing. Journalists owe their loyalty to the public. Professional values will hopefully not be too hard to be leveled within that loyalty.

Goodbye to the Rocky

The Rocky Mountain News, the oldest newspaper in Colorado at 150 years and winner of several Pulitzer prizes, was killed yesterday. The staff was told Thursday at noon that Friday would be their last edition.

This video tells the story.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Good Night Journalism

So, with all the media falling into a wasted pit of endless nothing, what do we learn from good night and good luck? Well, McCarthy would have carried on his merry little way, scaring everyone into oblivion if Murrow hadn't had the balls to stand up to him. People applauded Murrow for what he did, and it was certainly courageous, but things have changed. Apparently everyone is tired of hearing about all of the bad stuff. Would they tire of Murrow trying to tell the truth? Would they applaud him now and stand behind him? Maybe not.

Newspapers are dying. The public think they hate the media. They think they can do it on their own, but they can't. I'm sure people criticized Murrow for what he did, but they wouldn't have had anything to criticize him about if he hadn't done anything. People are more than willing to share their opinions on current events and public opinion is rampant, but would public opinion exist if the media didn't give them anything to have an opinion about? Blogs would shut down if the media didn't feed them with new information. The people would be silent, and ignorant.

But then again...maybe ignorance is bliss.

The joke's on you- I don't own a single hat.

Deserted News?...Yes, I'd consider it to be so.

Upon hearing of the recent demoting of two editors at the Deseret News, I was outraged. But I wasn't shocked. Whether rumored or true, I had heard of Joe Cannon's shenanigans to "Mormonize" the paper for a while now. It's understandable. From a business standpoint, it makes sense. Newspapers are dying, so what better way to scramble to safety than to capitalize on a niche market, which just happens to be the dominant culture of Utah? Well, whether or not it is financially better, there is a better way- a way that is, oh I don't know, journalistically responsible?

Here is some math for Joe Cannon: reporting the whole truth = a reputable newspaper. Censoring and irresponsible gatekeeping x bias = not the whole truth = not a reputable newspaper. Does he know this? Does he want the Deseret News to gain a reputation of being a biased, slanted news source?

And then there is the underlying issue that gets my proverbial goat: religious equality. As someone with records in the LDS church (they don't just disappear from inactivity- crazy huh!), I feel that Mormon newspaper-readers want truth just as much as anyone else. Just because they are conservative as a religion doesn't mean that (some) members aren't open-minded. They don't need to be told bedtime stories just because they believe in a certain set of standards and values. The Herald Journal, a drastically smaller, more localized Utah newspaper has the nerve to publish controversial stories. Why? Because it's the truth, and that is their job. And yes, they get the crotchety-est of bible-swinging old people yelling at them for printing stories. But they deal with it. Because they are responsible for relaying truth.

Additionally, a close acquaintance of mine interviewed for a position at the Des News. His resume is solid, he is a great writer, he is intelligent, yet I am inclined to say that he won't hear back from them because he is not LDS and was brave enough to tell them that when he interviewed there. So there you have it, a good, honest, experienced reporter doesn't get hired because of religious differences. Uh, haven't we been trying to avoid this job discrimination thingie for some time now? I know, I know, I sound hyperbolic. And it may seem like I am jumping the gun here. But I'll make you a deal- if he gets offered the job, I will eat my hat. You know, this one.
I don't have anything profound to say about my experience with "Good Night and Good Luck," but I did enjoy it while gleaning some valuable lessons from it. It was my first time seeing the movie and I feel that it is one of the quintessential films that all journalisms students should see.

As the film progressed and introduced us to Murrow, my first thought was, who are the Murrows of today? Who are the trailblazers who question ideas and who are brave enough to bring new ones to the "marketplace of ideas?" They are here, but they are hard to find sometimes, amidst the chaos of celebrity "news" and other mindless fodder. I also wonder about the people who watched Murrow back in his day-- I wonder what they think of broadcast journalism now. Do they think it is legitimate? Or will they always hail Murrow as the greatest- the irreplaceable purveyor of responsible T.V. news?

Indeed, Murrow was a pioneer. He will undoubtedly always be heralded in the journalism field for being courageous enough to bring the truth about McCarthyism to the public. He simply stood up for the truth. The CBS bigwigs chided him for being biased, people questioned his background (i.e. accused him of Commie affiliations), but he was stalwart and sought to relay the full story to the public. Senator McCarthy held a lot of influence on a fearful public, but Murrow didn't flinch. He seemed confident, unyielding, and stoic, yet humble enough-- even enough to get his show pushed to the unfavorable Sunday afternoon timeslot.

I can see why he was seen as biased by his CBS superiors-- he wasn't pushing the mainstream "safe" agenda. It was frightening and shocking to them. He seemed so adamant about opening up the other side of McCarthyism to the public, that yes, my first uninformed impression of him detected the possibility of bias. But it was a fleeting thought. When one considers that he was simply reporting the full issue- the side of McCarthy that had never been exposed- he was simply doing his job as a pursuant of truth. And that's all we really want to do as journalists, right?

Good Luck and Good Night

I think that this was a great movie and carried a pretty good point to the story. One of the things that I noticed in the movie is that they were nervous about reporting on a government figure. I found it interesting that there was so much hesitation and worry, all of the people that they were afraid to offend. They were worried about what all of their sponsors would think. They were afraid for good reason because in the end they were relieved of their show. It is an interesting contrast from today. It seems that when it comes to government officials the media does not hold back, it seems like they are out to show you the bad and the dirty in the officials and do not fear judgement. I am not that familiar with the history of the media but it seems like this was an example of the first questioning of an government figure, and then just opened the door for the media today.

Why isn't free speech free, for everybody?

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof...We will not walk in fear of another...we will remember we are not descended from fearful men...We can't escape being responsible for our results...we can't fight for democracy abroad without doing it at home," Ed Murrow said. (Here is the speech on free speech

This quotes highlights two less obvious themes of the film, "Good Night, and Good Luck." They are freedom of speech is not free for some, and that women were and in many ways, continue to be ignored in news.

The 'dissenters' who were for communism in the 50's were confused for unloyal Americans. It seems that in a time of fear, people throw the Constitution out to the dogs. It doesn't say speech is free sometimes, or it costs money, or that white people only get it. It says freedom of speech shall not be abridged. Period.

The reaction that citizens gave to McCarthy, one of fear and support, shows that people do not understand this concept. They don't understand that truth will emerge with more speech and a free press. We wouldn't need to protect free speech if people only ever talked about 'safe, sappy, happy' things. Really, this is a double standard. It tells me that my free speech isn't free. Milo, the air force kid, had to pay for his relative's free speech.

How does this kind of garbage seep into our system? Well, my theory is that not everyone had or has equal access to free speech, and the participation process. Point in case for the film, women. Women were a minority in the newsroom. They did secretarial work, and took orders. They did not report, give opinions or confer with important people. Heck, one couldn't even wear her wedding ring. While the women in the film were not out rightly verbally abused or the like, they were ignored, bossed around, and unrepresented in the news process.

By including everyone in the news process, less garbage will seep in. It gives more eyes, ears, viewpoints and skills to uncovering the truth. It allows for news to be less biased. I believe this is what Murrow was referring to when he said we can't fight for democracy abroad without having it at home. America, by history and constitutional definition, is a place of opportunity and equality and justice. Not allowing certain people to participate in the speech process is not democracy. That means we can't possible be living in one, and we do no know what it means. Therefore, we don't know what we're fighting for. All I know is that it ain't free.

Good Night, Good Luck, Good Movie

Director George Clooney's 2005 Academy Award-nominated chronicle of Edward Murrow's courageous media take-down of Joseph McCarthy is one of my all-time favorite films. I think this is probably true of a lot of journalism majors because of the way this film showcases that romantic, idealistic view of journalism as the noble government watchdog, serving the interests of American citizens everywhere. And the best part about that, and about Murrow's integrity, is the fact the movie is based on a true story. That this actually happened. That the idea of journalistic accomplishments contributing to the moral and ethical growth of society is a lot more than just a delusion of grandeur and that it not only can happen, but it did happen, and has happened at countless points in time throughout our nation's history and the history of the profession. Clooney was also wise to use Murrow's speech to the Radio and Television News Directors Association from 1958 as the movie's framing device because Murrow's concluding words about "living or falling by television" certainly resonates with what has happened to contemporary journalism and the medium of television in recent years.

Self-Destruction is be Press-Induced

I always enjoy watching "Good Night, and Good Luck." I just love Ed Murrow. I love that he was so brave; he went with his intuition, and didn't let anybody talk him out of it. Whether the concern of doing the story was his personal safety or reputation, the business of CBS, fellow employees jobs, the risk of losing watchers, or pressure from politicians or media owners, Murrow was undeterred. I think Murrow is still a shining example of what journalism should be.

I wanted to stand up and clap when Murrow said, "Our history will be what we make it...historians will find evidence of decadence, escapism, and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live...We have a built in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information, and our media reflects this." (Here is the clip of the speech:

I think this statement is true through every fiber and is bloody brilliant and bold. Murrow just summed up my feelings, but I will explicate a little more on his statement. I know, as history shows, that journalists and media consumers do affect and change the present and future. But I think both groups have a limited view of this, due to the business and 'entertainment' end of the stick, which Murrow refers to. These realities were clear in the film. For example, CBS head Bill said to Murrow, "I don't want a constant stomach ache every time you take on a controversial subject."

Not only are consumers soft, so are the producers of the news, which in undeniably a reciprocal relationship, but nevertheless, the producers of news should give the people what they need, not what they want.

I am amazed that over 50 years ago, that there was concern over people sitting on their 'fat surpluses' and we still haven't fixed that problem today. People have a gag effect when they hear unpleasant things on the news. I do not think it's because they can't handle violence or sadness. People play more violent video games and watch peers do drugs than they do the news, and this should have the same devestating effect. The key is that people want insulation from news because they don't like the guilt and responsibility it puts on them. That is what the news is for. That's why the 1st Amendment protects press and speech. News allows for progress, change and opportunity. But sometimes these things are hard. The war in the Congo is so undercovered because people here, including journalists, don't want to know it's going on. Ignorance is bliss. I think Americans are nortorious for beign aloof to the issues of the world. We sit on our surpluses while the rest of the world, even some of our very own, suffers.

But I am very skeptical to think people will want to accept the guilt anytime soon. This is evident, as Murrow pointed out, by coverage of entertainment for news, and the death of media. The Rocky Mountain News just died today (for the whole story, check out El Peez's blog But there's no guilt for that or for AIDS in Africa or poverty in our own town. Because everyone assumes what Bill told Murrow, "McCarthy will self-destruct."

But our problems won't just go away. Corruption usually doesn't just pop out of the closet, wars don't stop themselves, and poverty won't bail itself out. If Murrow, along with others, wouldn't have braved the cold, McCarthy would have kept going like the Energizer Bunny. These issues have to press-induced. But if we don't get 'off our fat surpluses' these problems will continue to plague the world without knowledge and resolutions.

Objectivity and Loyalty

Objectivity is an important part of journalism but it seems to be an unrealistic goal. Everyone is a product of their environment. We see things the way we do because of how we were raised, where we grew up and the experiences that we have had. As we get older and have more experiences we either learn to think more for ourselves or we start thinking even more like those around us or worse just like our parents. I think as journalists if we know we have built into us our own notions we should try even harder to take a step back and be objective.
It didn’t seem like Murrow had much of choice but to let Hollenbeck be tarred by McCarthy. He had so much on his plate already. It would be hard to watch a friend suffer so but it was necessary to reach the desired end.
Journalists owe loyalty to their readers and themselves. They of course have to be loyal to the advertisers or else how would the bills be paid. I would also say loyalty is essential in friendship but you can’t always please everyone and when you try you generally fail.

War Coffins Ethics

CNN issued an article on February 26 that corresponded perfectly with Case 9-G out of our book that addresses the ethical issue of showing coffins of soldiers coming home from the Middle East. In 2004, three years into Iraq and Afghanistan, Tami Silicio, who helped load coffins that headed to Dover, Maryland from the Middle East, snapped a respectful photo of America’s fallen soldiers. Silicio said, “When you look t the photo, you will fill with compassion.” She sold her photo to news sources like the Seattle Times, which ran the photo on the front page above the fold. Silicio lost her job because she broke the ethical standard of taking and publishing the photo of soldier’s coffins, which was frowned upon by her employer and the government. Flash forward five years and President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates reviewed the policy and have changed the government’s stance on soldier’s coffins. Gates and Obama consulted with the military and military families on the subject. Gates said, “I have decided that the decision regarding media coverage of the dignified transfer process at Dover should be made by those most directly affected -- the families.” The announcement was made, “The Pentagon will lift its ban on media coverage of the flag-draped coffins of war victims arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware,” and will allow the press more coverage of this almost sacred transfer. I think it’s a bold move. I don’t think the government should have censored the media all this time. The coffins are anonymous and I realize the sensitivity of the families, but it instills an appreciation for life and service. If a coffin is unidentifiable, then it becomes a symbol of pride and that can be agreeable for both sides.

Shattered Glass

So after this week my posts will be on track with everyone else's.
I watched Shattered Glass and all I can say is WOW. The part that bothers me the most is Stephen Glass won't admit to all his mistakes. It was one thing to fabricate the stories. It is another to lie about it, especially once you are caught.
I don't understand why Stephen didn't just be a fiction writer. He is obviously good at it.
The worst part about Stephen is he covered real issues that needed attention but he used fake information. The issues can't be recognized at the level they need to be when the stories are revealed as fiction.
I just sat there thinking anytime now would be great to say "Ok I made it all up." I don't understand his thinking. It seems to me he was trying to protect his reputation and his job by saying everything he wrote is true. To me, what he did made it worse for him because he was obviously busted. Now not only did he write bull shit but he lied about it and tried to make people believe he was an honorable person being attacked by the new editor. I think he felt too many pressures to be great and tried to be what his family and friends wanted him to be instead of being true to himself and being great at something he wanted to do and could do honestly.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why I love it, and then some.

I love "Good Night, and Good Luck." I think the filming is beautiful, and the cast and story line are excellent. I like to watch it every so often because it reminds me of why I like journalism. I think the movie captured the feel of a newsroom perfectly. The support of fellow staffers, the chaos and adrenaline of getting the story, reporting, waiting for the phone to ring ... I love it. Newsrooms are a great working environment. In a thankless job, it is nice to have a staff that will celebrate the victories and always stick with you. I think the portrayal of this in the movie was well done.

At the beginning of the movie, Ed Murrow said something about people having a built in allergy to bad news. This goes to a topic a lot of us have been discussing and, as I have said, agree with. Someone else in the movie said something similar, "They want to enjoy themselves, not a civic lesson." This is the sad truth. People would so much rather watch Murrow do his "Person to Person" show, or whatever it was, than hear about a senator's deceptive acts. Sure that's intriguing but people like happy and positive news, as evidenced by the man who wrote that letter to the editor to The Herald Journal. Which leads me to reference another quote of Murrow's. At the end of the movie, he said the television is more than wires. It can illuminate, but only if people let it. People need to recognize journalism for what it is – a watchdog and an educational opportunity.

Ethical values and quality control in the digital era

from Nieman Watchdog, "Questions the press should ask"

Ethical dilemmas on the Web

Bob Steele at Poynter sees a significant erosion of ethical standards. Blogs, Tweets, social networking, citizen-submitted content and multi-media storytelling offer great promise, he writes—but they also carry considerable peril. (This article is from the Winter 2008 issue of Nieman Reports.)

Loyalty and Ethics

The hardest part for me when it comes to ethics and journalism is that there not clear cut rules. We have a whole book that tells us how to correctly write a sentence and how to get the news out to our audience, but only our gut feelings and experiences when it comes to ethics.

As I was watching "Good Night and Good Luck," I was surprised that Murrow didn't show more sympathy toward Hollenbeck, but then again, why would he. Murrow felt he was doing America a favor by uncovering a communist and by doing so other people were going to get hurt. I don't blame him for what he did, he followed his gut feeling and decided to go with the news story. He didn't do anything wrong, but Hollenbeck suffered a great deal from his choice.

Loyalty in journalism can sometimes be an undefined line. It is hard to report the news correctly if you are fearing someone you know and respect could get hurt in the process. This tends to create a biased attitude. This is why I don't think I would make a very good reporter. I get too emotionally involved in stories and don't want to hurt those individuals who have come to trust me. I want to be loyal to my job and loyal to everyone involved and sometimes it just doesn't work that way.

This movie helped me see the tough decisions we as journalists might have to make at certain times in our career that will cause us to step back and decide if we will choose to be loyal to a friendship, or to the job. Hopefully, we can always stay loyal to both!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When is MySpace a reporting resource?

Kelly McBride (Poynter Institute) writes an excellent column called Everyday Ethics. Her latest concerns the question of using social media for news reporting. Here's an excerpt and a link to the whole thing:

Infant's Death Plays Out On Parents' MySpace Pages

Last week in Sioux City, Iowa, 4-month-old Tryniti Hill died from what medical officials say was likely child abuse. Police arrested her father Paul Hill, 19. Friends consoled her mother, Kayla Hegge, 20. And MySpace became the place that many in the family's community went to glean information, find comfort and assign blame.

News media in Sioux City struggled with how to respond to the mother's and father's active MySpace pages. Last week, Hegge's status update indicated that Hill had "confessed." She went on to say that she lost both her baby and her partner that day. On her wall, her friends offered the mother consolation and the father condemnation. "You guys are such good parents," said one friend.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You were in class so you missed Obama's speech

Here is the speech after being run through Wordle, thanks to NPR.

Swimming in a sea of ethics stories, we are

Tonight in class I mentioned a few of these, including Utah Senator Chris Buttars' embarrassing public homophobic statements and the recasting of the Deseret News from daily newspaper to Mormon newsletter.

There are plenty of others. If you don't have time to read the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News cover to cover every day, you could follow Glen Warchol's top-ranked blog, the Salt Lake Crawler, to keep up. The man doesn't miss much!

Why everyone should care about the decline of newspapers

From the March issue of The New Republic comes this long but worthwhile article by Paul Starr, Stuart professor of communications and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and the author most recently of Freedom's Power (Basic Books).

Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption)

Why American politics and society are about to be changed for the worse.

The lead: "We take newspapers for granted. They have been so integral a part of daily life in America, so central to politics and culture and business, and so powerful and profitable in their own right, that it is easy to forget what a remarkable historical invention they are. Public goods are notoriously under-produced in the marketplace, and news is a public good--and yet, since the mid-nineteenth century, newspapers have produced news in abundance at a cheap price to readers and without need of direct subsidy. More than any other medium, newspapers have been our eyes on the state, our check on private abuses, our civic alarm systems. It is true that they have often failed to perform those functions as well as they should have done. But whether they can continue to perform them at all is now in doubt."

The's columnist Romanesko quotes Starr today about this:

"Despite all the development of other media, the fact is that newspapers in recent years have continued to field the majority of reporters and to produce most of the original news stories in cities across the country," writes Princeton prof Paul Starr. "Online there is certainly a great profusion of opinion, but there is little reporting, and still less of it subject to any rigorous fact-checking or editorial scrutiny."

The rest of the story here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"It's the media's fault"

Love Saturdays, don't you? So this morning I take my coffee, sit in the sunshine and open two days worth of local newsprint for a leisurely read. Letters to the editor rarely disappoint (though I'm frequently amazed at what makes it into print), and today is no exception.

Here's one I have to share. It's a point of view widely held about journalism, and speaks to the issues raised in Storee's fine rant of a few days ago.

Here's a the text of the letter (because it will disappear after a week into a $$-dependent archive) and a link if you want to read it online at the Herald Journal.

Accentuate the positive

Friday, February 20, 2009

To the editor:

Is anybody looking at the bright side? There are a few good things in life right now. Gasoline prices are only 40 percent of what they were a little while ago. Home equity loan rates have dropped clear down to 3 percent. Unemployment in Cache Valley is among the lowest in the country. And, has anybody noticed that the sale of the century is going on down at the old stock market?

But, what does the news media focus on? Not on how low gas prices are now but that they are bound to go up in the future. Where are the articles that focus on the stock market going up in the future? Even the news about the stimulus package is quick to emphasize that we are going to spiral down some more before it can take effect. All the negative news that’s fit to print!

I really believe we can insulate ourselves and keep our local economy strong by continuing to produce and buy goods. Fill up while prices are down. I just bought a locally produced treadmill at a very good discount. We don’t have greedy unions and CEOs around here driving prices up and siphoning off company profits. We don’t have to panic and fall for all the negative news broadcast by the media naysayers, the “Pied Pipers of gloom and doom.” Let’s just do the best we can to keep living, working, shopping and enjoying the bright side of these times despite all the turmoil in Washington. Maybe we can make a little lemonade out of the sour lemons fed to us by the media.

David Taylor

What can we (YOU, as incoming professionals or armchair media critics) do about this perception? It it "all the media's fault" that the news is bad? When the stock market closes at a record low and the unstable economy is the top news story around the globe, should that not be the lead story on the nightly news? If not, why not?


Friday, February 20, 2009


Deception, what a funny little topic? I think that the art of deception takes many forms. We saw it in Shattered Glass with Stephen deceiving editors and readers. You see it in undercover reporting with writers deceiving sources. Shattered Glass represented the worst kind of deception, lying to your readership. But like the text says many people think of deception as a continuum, with one end being Stephen Glass and the other complete truth. My feelings towards deception tend to stray towards the middle of the spectrum. I believe that deceiving readers is the cardinal sin of reporting. But I also believe that an occasional white lie to a source, to help a story along, may be forgivable.

I think many times sources can feel deceived by the media after something they did not want to make it to press, runs front page. If you are conducting and interview with a source and it's known that you are a reporter, anything that is said in that meeting is fair game. It is your job to report the facts, a simple "off the record" doesn't make a source invincible. Personally, I think the media gets a bad name for this kind of journalism, but you wouldn't expect any other professional to stop doing a part of their job because you asked.

Undercover reporting is that weird, gray area that is bad on paper but good in reality. I think of all of the wonderful work and groundbreaking discoveries that have come out of undercover reporting and to me the ends justify the means. That doesn't necessarily make it right, but as a reporter you weigh the consequences and the benefits and make a decision that will cause the least harm and the greatest benefit.

You've made the news. Bummer.

On meeting with my chiropractor I heard about the chimp attack in Connecticut and raced home to read more online about the incident (it's pretty sad that as a journalism major I need to hear about these things from my Chiropractor). My heart goes out to the woman who was attacked, and I'll tell you why. In my disgusting fascination with the story and the extent of the woman's injuries, my mind wanted more. I wanted to see pictures of something. Of the dead chimp, of the bloody driveway, but worst of all, of the woman's mangled face. On review of this revolting impulse I realized that the poor woman will not only never be the same again, but people want to enjoy her misfortune and listen to the sound of the chimp ripping her face off in the background of the 911 call.
So many people strive to make the front page of the paper by doing something radical or great. Others do nothing and have cameras all over them. The worst is the people who are trying to recover from some traumatic experience and have their sorrow broadcast to the world.
Just goes to show that no news really can be good news.

I'll just sit here on the fence, thank you very much.

This is something on which I cannot make up my mind. I believe any form of deception is unethical, especially to get a story. But then again, I think it depends on what sort of action is going on and who is doing it. If there are tips of serious allegations, I'd like to say go for it but every form of ethical and up front investigating should be explored first. So, effectively, I don't think I could take a stand on this until I am in the situation.

The News

Lately I have been keeping up to date on the biggest news story of the century it feels like, the stock market and the economy. I am amazed at the stupidity of so many of the CEO's of huge companies. I listen to them talk about how they managed to become billions of dollars in debt and it is not a wonder that America is taking a turn for the worst with people like that in charge of so much money. I would love to see some undercover reporting on the lives of these CEO's. I would like to know how on earth they can't manage to live on $500,000 a year, or what they do with the 1 or 2 million dollar bonus they get at the end of the year. Clearly people can live on much less than that, because I am still alive! I will be amazed if I ever make that much money in my entire life!

I feel that undercover reporting can serve a huge purpose for the American people. Sometimes that is the only way to really unveil the truth. Sure it might not be legal, and it might not be ethical, but I have to agree with Mills on this one when he says it is OK as long as it is the "greatest good for the greatest number of people." We all benefit when we find out about powerful people who have scammed others across the world who trusted them. The new one I heard about today was Stanford the bank owner who has people all over the world upset and worried about their hard earned money. I would love to see this man go down and if undercover reporting is the way to get all the facts about the case, so be it.

There is a fine line between legal undercover reporting and illegal reporting which I don't think anyone can really define, but I do believe there is a place for it in journalism. The American people need to be able to trust those who are taking care of our money, our family, and our lives and sometimes it takes a good journalist to dig up the dirt we need to know to keep us in the loop so we can make wise decisions.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Social Networking...

So as journalists in the new information age we seem to rely on social networking sites to often times do most of our social interactions. Heck we are blogging to the world about ethics. Obviously social networking sites are a great advantage in the world. Overseas real time communication and finding people who others wise would not have been found is a plus. But, how good is social networking and the sites? The BBC, our trusty British media giant, funded a study that addressed the effects of using social networking sites. The article stated:

"Dr Aric Sigman says websites such as Facebook set out to enrich social lives, but end up keeping people apart. Dr Sigman makes his warning in Biologist, the journal of the Institute of Biology. A lack of "real" social networking, involving personal interaction, may have biological effects, he suggests. He also says that evidence suggests that a lack of face-to-face networking could alter the way genes work, upset immune responses, hormone levels, the function of arteries, and influence mental performance. This, he claims, could increase the risk of health problems as serious as cancer, strokes, heart disease, and dementia."

So what ethical issues can be found, in journalism, in over using social networking sites? Sites like Myspace and Facebook have become staples. Even newer sites like Twitter make it available to live chat/update anywhere at anytime. We can even know someones every move in Dubai while we shimmer in the monitor light in our dorm room on the USU campus. Its unreal and incredible how connected we can be, but at what risk? Although I am using one article and one study, I am sure there is more, from both sides, out there. Like everything, its all about moderation. Over use becomes abuse. Until next time. Cheers!

Where are all the newspapers going?

I just found out that my hometown newspaper, The Post Register, will no longer be doing a Monday edition. This is a slippery slope my friends, as John McCain would say. Soon it will be 3 days a week, then a Sunday edition, and then it will poof into thin air, I am predicting anyway. It will disappear into thin air like so many other papers have recently. These economic times are rough, no doubt, but why do car makers, banks, and CEOs of corrupt entities get bailed out, while the fourth estate is squandering away? Is it because no one cares? Is it because people don't understand the necessity of journalism as a check on government?

I say yes to both. People don't care, so obviously government officials are happy to let the papers slip away, less investigation of themselves. I hear the phrase 'it's the media's fault' almost once a week, from church to school. But what is the media's fault? First, 'media' is a large, encompassing term, which includes everything, the good, the bad, entertainment and news. So people's looseness of this term leads me to believe they don't understand the role of the media. Second, the news media is not perfect, but reporting the hard issues that no one likes to hear is not 'their fault.' It's their job damn it! Americans need to get tough, and take a look at the news and realize we aren't the only country in the world with problems. People do not understand that without a free press, watchdogging, snooping, reporting, etc., there wouldn't be an America, a safe little haven they can hide away from the rest of the world's issues. This phrase disgusts me, and I have to hold my tongue when people use it.

A free press, as the founding fathers obviously knew, is interwoven with democracy. Why don't people understand that, why, please someone tell me! I know very few people, besides students and really old people, who read the newspaper. And they have no frikkin' idea what's going on even in their own community. I am beyond appalled. Why does knowing what's going on even matter? Because we all live on the same planet with limited resources, crazy dictators, epidemics, etc., and sooner or later, we will be, and are, inevitably involved in these issues. By letting the press slip away, our voice in our own nation and in the world on these issues also slips away, and therefore our freedom. Amen.

Blogging on ethics

Storee e-mails, "Do we need to do a blog entry for this week? If so, what on?"

Short answer: YES. Always. When in doubt, blog -- and please don't feel constrained by what I've suggested for the topic. (Note that I usually remember to call those suggestions "starting points," which implies that you have permission to wander and wind up somewhere else.)

Our schedule has had a minor change in the order of movies, but it doesn't affect the blog. Here's what the schedule says for this week and last:

Blog: (by Feb. 20) Starting points: Is deception by the news media ever justified? What about undercover reporting? What is the price for deception in the service of a good cause?

Blog: (By Feb. 13) Comment on any current local, state or national journalism ethics issue.

BTW, that Feb. 13 suggestion is good for any week, any time. Feel free to comment on any current media ethics issue that's got your dander up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No movie tonight

I've sent e-mail to all of you (check all your accounts -- I used the addresses you've listed on USU Banner, which might not be the ones you check most often) just now, to let you know I'm still fighting a lousy cold and won't be going to campus tonight to show Good Night, and Good Luck as planned.

We'll watch it in class next week, Feb. 24. (I put the wrong date in the e-mail; sorry, brain is not talking to typingfingers.) Your papers on it won't be due until the week after, on March 3. I'll juggle things around and post an adjusted schedule by the time class meets next week.

Stay warm.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I was once told by my roommate that I am a 'truth seeker' because I don't always take what people tell me at face value. I think that's why I like philosophy so much, because I get to really examine topics and figure out what it is that I think about the subject. The whole concept of truth has been so muddied with time and with people who think they are being clever that we no longer have a real definition of it. It's kind of like when you hear a word so often that it soon stops sounding like a real word. Sometimes people go to such extremes to find truth that they miss it entirely. I like that Kyle identified 'truth' as being one of the things he values most. I think that the best thing about truth is that it is simple. There is no covering your tracks or explaining in great detail. If you are telling the truth your explanaion can be very simple and people should be able to follow it pretty well.

But why is truth so important? Is it because it gives us common ground? Is it because it provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people? Do we actually want it? Do we really want to know what is really going on sometimes? I think that as a general rule people like to understand things, and if they aren't being told the truth, they will never understand. Truth is like a beautiful little puzzle that falls into place. Once you find a piece that fits, it fits. You don't have to cut off a corner or drive it in with a hammer. Truth is a beautiful thing, and not nearly as obtuse as many make it out to be.

Friday, February 13, 2009

First of all, might I say that I definitely agree with Storee. She probably said it best, but I will give my two cents as well. Celebrity gossip "news" has really been irritating me lately (see the latest post on my personal blog if you wish). I know to some people, tabloid magazines have their place at the checkout counter, and most people (hopefully) know they are not news. Still, their presence perpetuates these stories through the airwaves and papers to the point that it is considered news. Jessica Simpson gained weight? Good for her, whatever. It's her personal business. Who cares. Since when did putting on a little weight merit a news story? Really, is that what's important to the media and the consumers? Where are news values these days? The marketplace of ideas is vast, but that doesn't mean news corporations can let their gatekeeping go to hell. Like Storee said, it's not ethical when non-news is posed as news. People need to hear about what's really going on- the things that really matter-- ie, the recession, government spending, genocide in African countries, consumerism, and the list goes on and on. Of course, I'm not saying news should be depressing. I'm just saying it should be real news. I'm also not making a blanket statement here. Some publications and stations display responsible journalism and gatekeeping, which is encouraging.

The thing we need to do, both as journalists and media consumers is support trustworthy entities that don't waste valuable media time and space with "filler." We need to communicate what our priorities are as American consumers and journalists. If we as journalists want to concern ourselves with meaningless, then we'll end up an uninformed, uneducated country. If we as consumers aren't objective and don't care about ethical reporting, then our media will continue down the slippery slope. I hope this doesn't sound all doomsday-esque. I just feel that, in order to achieve ethics in journalism, consumers and journalists need to work together to arrive at the ultimate truth.

Old Rules out for online?

After reading the new ideas about changing how online journalism is done, I am agreeing that it is always good to look and see if change can make something better, but I am not quite sure about this guys suggestions on how to do it. For the first new rule, I don't think it is good to intentionally become involved in a story, it seems this rule is encouraging it. But I don't think it is terrible to tell the readers how your reporting went, and what you did to get the story. I think this sounds very refreshing. For the second rule, I just totally disagree. All sides, not one or two, always should be reported, and regular print and tv news are still struggling with that. This is too essential to journalism to throw out the window, 'debunking the lies' makes it too easy for the writer to start throwing their opinion in there rather than let the story from all sides help people make a decision on the truth. For the third new rule, I say yeah. The reader should be able to easily identify the difference between ads and editorial space. I still think newspapers are better though. Dumb computers.

Do news priorities say something about ethics?,2933,483204,00.html
Yes they do, in my opinion. While there are devastating fires in Australia, new government in Zimbabwe, Somali pirates taking over the world, and a global economic meltdown, a top news story in the American media the past two weeks has been, hold your breath, singer Jessica Simpson's weight gain, if you can call it that.
One story from FOX news asked if she was 'preggers', or gained 'sympathy weight' for her little sister who just had a baby. They even said she was eating a 'Dallas cowboy diet' with her boyfriend, who is a player. In reality, the weight gain, I would say, is not enough to make any of these accusations. She looks fine. But my question is, how in the world is it ethical to make these accusations, and most of all, put it as a priority story over serious, life-changing news?
What are the news values? I don't think the American top broadcast stations know. This is so ridiculous, I am very disappointed. How do they justify going after this? This isn't a 'story'! It is unethical because people are being burned in Australia, massive stimulus plans are in the works, and our fatphobia culture is doing a story on a pop star who put on a few pounds. This isn't even a features story, or anything of the like. It's like celebrity gossip and it is disgusting. What message is this sending young people? It is so important to be stick thin that it is worth reporting this 'story' over other devastating news?
On a broader note, when did news coverage of celebrities every body change and image become newsworthy in serious journalism? Google Michelle Obama, and you get back stuff about her fashion, and how to look like her. She is the first black first lady and we are talking about her fashion. Gag me. And I would like to also point out what Arie already said about Nadia the kid lady, that the news has questioned if she has had surgery to look like Angelina Jolie. How is this possibly relevant? I don't care if she looks like an alien, there is not a news topic.
My point is, this is not news, and is therefore not ethical to this kind of gatekeeping. There needs to be more coverage of international news on American news, and other issues that are actually serious, and are causing problems in our country today. We need to stop being obsessive about the lives our 'stars' and care about real problems, and when the news begin reporting on those, then that priority will show.


After reading the new post by Robert Miles and after reading a little through the SPJ website, here are some of the things that I found interesting that related to the post from Robert Miles.

Be Accountable

Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

Journalists should: — Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
— Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
— Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
— Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

I think that these are some of the important things that a lot of the Internet bloggers and writers don't acknowledge. I think that a lot of the people are writing from personal experience and how the story is going to relate instead of informing the public and letting us create our own opinions. Most of the writers are focusing on how to prove a point instead of reporting all of the sides to the story. I think that the ethics that have gotten us this far should continue to take precedence through the new Internet and blogoshpere age.

Opposite view of the babies

I have to agree with Arie that the biggest news story I have been following very closely lately is the story of Nadia and her 14 children. I watch the interviews and I am completely amazed at the composure this woman has. She is single, in school and now has 14 children under the age of 8. I would cry everyday if that were me!
Unlike Arie though, I think the news has been handling this story very well. Nadia made history because she is the only woman to have all eight babies survive for this long. She is going to have her hands very full for the next 30 years, and I guess I feel the public has a right to know what is going on in her life. Because she is single and still in school, she is going to need some type of help to pay for these children, especially since on one interview she said she no longer has any income coming in. Since residents of California are going to be helping pay for these children through taxes, they have a right to know what is going on and what she is spending her money on.
It reminds me of the stimulus packages the government has been giving to all these big companies. They say they aren't using the tax payers money to name a stadium or to host a trip for their employees, but it doesn't matter. Whatever money they use for things like that, the tax payers money has to compensate for.
The same is with Nadia. If she is using her money to get plastic surgery instead of pay for rent and food, then the public has a right to know. Journalists are reporting the truth. They are asking the tough questions and she is answering. I feel bad for this poor woman, but she does look great for just giving birth to eight babies!
I don't think journalists have a right to intrude on just anyone's life, but Nadia had to have expected this when she found out she was having eight children. I don't feel that they are doing anything ethically wrong, but it does present an ethical question that some may have a problem with. Who knows, maybe she will get her own reality TV show soon!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Talk me down, please

One of the biggest stories in the news lately has been the birth of octuplets in California. Sure, by sheer number, this is an interesting story. The birth of so many children to one woman at once is fascinating. The first few days of coverage I could understand but this story keeps going and going. First it was discovered she is a single mother, has six other children and lives with her parents. So what? Whether or not she will be able to properly care for her children is a question on everyone's mind but it is not journalists' job to declare her fit or not. Then people start to wonder about the ethics behind her doctor and whether he violated rules of practice. That is something entirely different and if they think it's suspicious enough to merit investigation, I can understand but that is another story. But now, the media are investigating the woman – her debt, money she receives for the government, etc. Last night, news organizations investigated whether or not she has had plastic surgery to look more like Angelina Jolie. Tell me, where is the story here? And what makes it our business?

Now, she hasn't been hiding from the media at all – doing television interviews, taking cameras to see her babies and starting a Web site asking for money – but still, I don't see why this has garnered so much media attention and how we see fit to investigate her personal life and finances. I believe the ethics here are questionable.

SPJ and Ethics

I floated around the SPJ website for some ideas on ethical issues today and found and article written in October of 2008. Since we analyzed photos and their ethics on Tuesday I thought this blurb would suffice. The article stated:

Photo manipulation. After the shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, news organizations, including People magazine and The New York Post, may have thought they were doing the right thing by altering photos that appeared to show a wounded student’s genitals. They weren’t. The image organizations edited out was actually a tourniquet. Photographs should be respected as a form of truth. “Never distort the content of news photos or video,” the code instructs. “Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible.”

I think on careful examination and inquiry certain media would be able to discover the actuality of the contents of the photo. I think people become lazy and with a click of a button can "fix" images. If the Post and People put forth some effort they would have known the facts and avoided breaking an ethical code.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Utilitarianism on "Lost"

Yeah, I know. I'm sure I'll get some groans and eye-rolling for this post, but I thought I'd do some posts on ethics in pop culture, and I decided to start by examining a television show that I have a very unhealthy obsession with. I know their are a lot of people out their who think that "Lost" is too confusing, or that the writers are making it all up as they are going. But the mere fact that the writers, in an unprecedented move for network television, negotiated an end-date for their show (just one year from now, actually) gives me great confidence in their ability to craft a satisfying, and answer-filled, ending. And as for the mystery, that's part of the reason why I find it so addicting. But what does all this have to do with ethics and utilitarianism? Two words: Benjamin Linus.

(Warning: SPOILERS abound in this post!) For those not in the know, I'll explain everything and why this applies to J.S. Mill's theory of ethics.

Introduced during the second season of the show (while claiming to be a hot-air balloon crash survivor named Henry Gale), Benjamin Linus actually turned out to be the leader of a fanatical cabal of island natives referred to by the plane crash castaways as "The Others." This mysterious group had been terrorizing the plane crash survivors almost since day one...and had done everything from kidnapping to killing to serve their ultimate purpose: a purpose that has yet to be revealed. In the show's second season finale, Ben and "The Others" captured several of the shows protagonists. During this scene, one of the shows protagonists Michael Dawson asked Ben "who" The Others actually were with Ben dryly answering his question with the statement that "they were the good guys."

Since Ben made this statement, much has been revealed about the significance of the mysterious island that the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on, why it requires protecting, and who it requires protection from. This is an island that is capable of doing everything from healing a man's paralysis to traveling through time and space (no, I did not make that up). And because of his deception and cruelty, audience members were lead to believe that Ben Linus was the central villain of the series, but now it seems that he operates under the belief that his actions are justified under the utilitarian guise of "the greatest good for the greatest number." And since recent episodes have revealed that what he protects might have something to do with the preservation of the space-time continuum, the "greatest number" might very well be everybody. I'll get into some more detail about how the enigmatic Ben exemplifies the central tenants of utilitarianism in another post and then, assuming anyone actually reads these, pose this question to readers about whether Ben's actions are justifiable. Wow, totally just outed myself as a major nerd...

Do ethics need to change for online journalism?

A new post by Robert Miles on analyzes the challenges print journalists face as they transition to the web -- specifically with regard to the assumptions they make regarding ethics and procedure.

Miles takes three popular tenets of traditional journalism ethics that he believes journalists must change in order to remain relevant online.

What do you think about this?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Wrong profession?

Aside from all that is wrong with what this man did, lets all just take a second to reflect on his genius. This guy fooled everyone, everyone except me i might add. within the first ten minutes i leaned over to my neighbor in class and said, "i don't trust this guy, he is weird." just wanted to throw that in there to feel cool, but i digress. Back to my original point that this man was in the wrong profession. the first thing i think of is either a novelist, because of his great imagination, or a writer for the national inquirer. But if I were as convincing and believable as this guy I would become the worlds greatest con-artist, even though in a way i guess He was, I think he could go into serious business conning people into trusting him and exploiting it, because thats all he was really doing throughout the movie anyway. I guess him becoming a lawyer in the end fits quite well also considering he is such a great liar.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Smooth Criminal...

Jail time was hardly a real threat to this worm Stephen Glass, but hell the liar knew how to work a crowd. Politics aside, Glass's smooth ways parallel that of Bil Clinton. Despite Clinton's personal oval office affairs, no pun intended, he is said to be the kind of guy you would want to go out and get a beer or white house intern with. Glass pulled the same card. He used his knowledge of people and exploited it. Everyone either felt bad for the guy or just loved his friendship. He took those relationships and used others emotions to his advantage. The dude lived in a fantasy world and skimped on the code of ethics. Although Glass eventually got caught, the question surfaces "who watches the watch dog?" How many other journalists cook parts of or entire stories. How many Stephen Glass's exist? I guess the only solution to honest, truly honest and accurate journalism is to admonish each journalist to do all they can to live by the standards.

Where is he now?

Stephen Glass seems to have vanished in the years since the film of his escapades, and then his failed novel about it, appeared.

A Google search sheds a bit of light on what's happened to him in the 10 years since he was fired from the New Republic.

He lives with his girlfriend in Los Angeles where he works as a paralegal for a small law firm. He graduated law school and passed the written portion of the bar exam but was not admitted to the bar.

"Glass also continues to try to entertain, no longer through fictional journalism, but in first-person storytelling sketches with the L.A.-based comedy troupe Un-Cabaret," according to an October, 2007 Vanity Fair article.

Here's the National Review's scathing review of The Fabulist.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


The interview of Stephen Glass after the movie was really interesting. I can very much understand the perspective of the men with whom he worked who said that they would never trust the guy again. They obviously took it to an extreme in their analogies as to how far they would have to go in order to believe him again, and it's true that his actions affected them greatly. Their reputations and ability to trust others has been forever shaken. The interview was done five years after the fact, and Stephen, it seemed, was taking his first steps in asking for forgiveness of the people he wronged on national television. Maybe this wasn't the best approach, but tell me what would have been.
The guy had been going through treatment for years to get over his tencency to lie, and maybe it all came to nothing. Maybe he is now, just as bad as he was in 1998, but then again, maybe not. I kind of feel bad for the guy because his reputation has been forever tarinshed. I know that what he did was horrible from an ethical perspective, but no matter what he does from here on out, he will be known as nothing more than that famous journalist that lied. I know that a lot of people are going to disagree with me, and I don't think there really is any remedy to this probelm, but I would just like to present it. I try to think of how I would handle the situation that he is in right now. He can do nothing to change the past, but nothing he does in the future will be any good now because of it. Because of something he cannot change.
Like I said, I don't know what the remedy to this would be, but I don't think that the treatment he will recieve for the rest of his life is very eithical from the standpoint of those who are treating him like that either. They may be within their rights to never trust the guy again, but that doesn't make it ethical.
The decisions we make will affect not only us but those with whom we work (editors, coworkers, subjects, etc.) so we have to choose wisely right now to make the right decisions. Hindsight is 20/20, so lets look at his past and learn from it so that we don't ever have to look at our own like he is looking at his.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Power of the Editor

What I enjoyed most about Shattered Glass was the relationship and story between the staff and the two editors, Michael and Chuck. It appeared on the surface that Michael was the editor of your dreams. As Stephen Glass said it, "he always had your back," which made him a better editor than Chuck. I feel like Chuck was actually the better editor, he had the writers best interests at heart, as much as you can for an editor who found out that 27 out of 41 of a writers stories were fabricated, and he also knew what was best for the paper. I feel like Michael let Stephens charm get the best of him, as did alot of other members of the staff. He failed to do thorough fact checks, relied to much on the trust of the writers, and was ultimately deceived. Although Chuck did not come across as valiant a defender as Michael, he fulfilled his role as editor walking that fine line between the writers and management. If I were put in the same situation as Chuck, being lied to and deceived, I would make the same decision as he did. He wagered the situation with Stephen and the reputation of The New Republic and made a well rounded decision. It is not my belief that an editor is someone who will defend your name and story given all circumstance. I believe that a good editor is one who questions to get the facts straight so when controversy comes he can defend your story and best interest.

Shattered Glass and Shattered Confidence

This incident goes past a mistake in reporting or deceptive reporting, it is pure, solid journalistic fabrication, and it is so disturbing to me that there are people who would take this sacred, 1st Amendment privilege and smear it on the faces of American citizens and the press.

While Glass, obviously was a sociopath and compulsive liar, this issue goes way beyond an individual's issue, this is what undermines the foundation of our democracy, a free press that brings truth to the people. I think this incident, along with similar others are a good part of the reason why less people trust news, even read news and are less informed, and that means we are failing somewhere on some level.

Reader confidence is what the whole idea of the press hinges on. If there is no trust between reader and paper then there is nothing. Actions such as Glass's hit people deep because of the previously established trust. I believe people can put up with typos, small innaccuracies and such because that is the nature of news reporting, but completely fabricated stories printed as truth are not something that people will put up with. It is never alright to fabricate stories and portray them as truth.

Social responsibility and the marketplace of ideas are two ideas central to journalism. And Glass totally shattered both of them. He was irresponsible and gave people false ideas to think about. If perhaps this goes on more than we know, not that it does, but are our ideas of politics and social norms all botched in the marketplace because they are false based?

The SPJ Code of Ethics says "Seek the Truth and Report it," and Glass did not. In fact he went to great ends to report false ideas and facts, and this is also disturbing, the ill-intent.

While an event such as this undermines the whole system, it is scary to think it only takes one person to do it. But what is the solution? I don't know, firing Glass didn't fix the false truths he told. It didn't give people their confidence back. I think the only thing we can really do, is be less complacent readers, fact checkers, co-workers and journalists and editors.

Oh, Stephen, will you ever learn?

Well, I hope he did. Judging from the 60 Minutes interview, it seems like he did. But can we trust him? Even reformed pathological liars are hard to trust. Poor Mr. Glass. I feel bad for him, I do, even though I wanted to strangle Hayden Christensen's portrayal of him throughout the whole movie. Every last scheming, 90s glasses-wearing, squirrelly, manipulative, sweet-talking, pathetic bit of him. OK, I know that sounds awful. But seeing that throughout his career he did nothing but reinforce the "sleazy journalist" stereotype that looms over us journalists' heads, I guess I can be a little angry. And though dishonesty isn't (or shouldn't be) acceptable in any profession, I think it is especially offensive in journalism where we are supposed to be reporting facts. Not posing facts as fiction. Not even stretching the truth a little. Yes, Stephen, I really hope you've learned your lesson.

I'm actually interested to read his book, "The Fabulist," though. I really wonder if he was able to tell the facts about his ordeal with the New Republic without sensationalizing or suckering and charming the readers into feeling bad for him. And like Jessica said, he is obviously a really smart man to be able to get away with his complex web of lies. Seriously! There's no doubt that Mr. Glass was a smart man. Obviously, though, he didn't feel like he got enough recognition in his life for said intelligence and lied in the name of responsible journalism.

confused but reporting anyway

So I missed Tuesday's class. They syllabus says we watched Good Night & Good Luck but from the other posts it looks like you watched Shattered Glass.
So my posts are backwards I'm guessing. Objectivity is an extremely important trait to have for reporting. But to me it is more of keeping yourself and your opinions out of your reporting. I agree when Murrow says, "There aren't always two equal and logical sides to each argument." A reporter is supposed to get the facts and report them. If the sides are not equal then they are not. Objectivity is giving both sides and equal chance.
As for loyalty, reporters are loyal to their audience. This does not mean tell them what they want to hear. But to find the truth for their sake. In the movie, Murrow's boss says that he writes Murrow's check, feeds his family, and puts his son through school. He says this to say I am in charge. But even at that Murrow reports what he finds and does not always report to what his boss would want on the air. And that is how it should be. Not a lack of disrespect but fulfilling duty and not letting anything get in your way. Sometimes reporters have to "throw stones at social giants" and hope for the best but always have a clear conscience that you did the right and best thing possible.
Loyalty is an important trait to have and value to hold. It is on my list of professional values however it is not at the top. While I recognize the importance, there are more important values in my mind. Being honest is one of them.

Deception is sometimes necessary

Deception at times is necessary in the news media. Some people won't tell the truth for anything and must be deceived in order for the truth to come out. Whether that makes it moral is hard to say. One person being decieved is better than an entire audience of readers not knowing the truth about an important issue. Undercovering reporting also can also be necessary. Many important stories in the past would have gone undetected if it wasn't for undercover investigating. Many people can't be trusted to tell the truth. They go around deceiving people maybe they deserve to be deceived once in a while in if its for reason that is. In the service of a good cause I say go ahead deceive away.
Now Stephen Glass wasn't working for a good cause. He was working to inflate his ego with the praise from other people. Maybe he was a good story teller but a lot of people can tell good stories if they completely make them up. It's more work to find a truthful story and report that well than to completely fabricate a story. He was an enormous coward in every way imaginable.

Shattered Glass

Stephen Glass should be writing books, making movies, and have his hand in all other types of Fiction entertainment. He is one of the greatest storytellers that I have seen in a while. I mean I was amazed at all of the detail that he had in his stories and in his "notes". He was a great writer and had people eating out of the palm of his hand.
That goes without saying that what he did was wrong and that he deserved the consequences that he received. It was interesting to see and hear from his 60 Minutes interview how this all started. How he said that lying was a slippery slope. How he said that it started with just manipulating some quotes. I wonder how many journalists are guilty of that. Then he branched into other lies. He said that it was all because he wanted to have a good story and would do anything to get it.
I could not believe what he was able to do at the end when he fabricated everything in the story, from the characters and the story. This really shows to how great extents writers will go to to get a good story. I think that most all journalist can learn form Stephen as he said that it all started with the little stuff and then grew into complete fiction.

Ethics In a Row

Despite all the lying in the movie “Shattered Glass”, did anyone find it the slightest bit fabulous? Sure, Glass made up story after story, but what mind would it take to do all that? And get away with it that long? Skill! Being in a room full of journalists that were shocked and awed by every move made by Glass, made me wonder how far Glass really went. I almost think they should have kept him on as a non-fiction writer in a portion of their magazine. (Well... I suppose there is the trust issue). The New Republic is a magazine, after all, not a newspaper. Okay okay... what Glass did was wrong, but I couldn’t help but think he was brilliant. I am definitively not saying it is justified. I used to think undercover reporting was flat out WRONG. However, I noticed a lot of good that has come out of it. There was the Watergate scandal or undercover reporting in nursing homes to see the treatment of the elderly. I cannot deny these issues needed to be known to the public. “Investigative” or undercover reporting is simply necessary if it can be justified in the end. However, the price of deception is trustworthiness. If a source finds out you did go undercover, other sources may not trust you, which is essential in journalism. I suppose this is the reason we need to have our ethics in line to guide us!

Lying in Journalism

As I was watching "Shattered Glass" I was amazed at the amount of work Stephen Glass had to put into his stories to get away with making them up. It seemed like it would have been easier to just right a true story that to make up all the false facts, people and websites.
It is hard to decide if investigative reporting is ethical or lying. I guess it would have to depend on the situation. The type of reporting Glass did is never acceptable, but I do believe there are times when it is necessary to hide your identity to get the truth of the matter. Like Nancy said in class, without investigative reporting we would have never known about the Watergate scandal and who knows, maybe we never would have known about Bill and Monica! I also believe undercover reporting can be useful in times of war to make sure the prisoners and soldiers are being treated correctly.
To me the main difference between lying and undercover reporting is your motive. Are you lying to get a story that will put you ahead in your career, or are you risking your career to help others. If you feel you can justify your reasons like Mills said with "the greatest good for the greatest number," then undercover reporting is useful. There is one other condition in order to correctly go undercover, you must let your editor know. How can they back you up if they feel you are lying to them.
Glass had no right to do what he did. He hurt so many people through the process, but with a good cause then yes I think undercover reporting can be very useful.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I disliked everyone in this movie but Chuck Lane.

"He's a worm."

The guy on "60 Minutes" had it right. By time the movie was wrapping up, I was so sick of Stephen Glass's voice and his sob stories. Oi. And his friends? Yes, Glass seems like this cool, lovable guy, but he was too much for me and it was only a couple hours. I think his behavior wasn't caught because he seemed so lovable and the articles were unbelievable. Who wouldn't hear his ideas and run with them? In hindsight, however, they were glaringly too perfect. I still can't believe he had the audacity to fabricate entire stories, create fake Web sites and voicemail. When we watched the real Glass in the "60 Minutes" interview, I couldn't believe anything he said.

I love Chuck Lane. He is the man. Even when the whole staff was against him, he continued to investigate Glass. He stood up for the dignity of the field and wasn't fooled by Glass's act. I admire his integrity and understanding. When nobody understood the severity of fabrication, he let them have it. And I loved it. I also admired the staff of the online publication who discovered the unethical behavior. It would take a lot to go after the New Republic, the in-flight magazine of Air Force One.

The most basic journalism standards were violated and still, Glass doesn't seem to realize the seriousness of it. Praise is only truly learned by excellence and honesty. Success in journalism is based on truth, transparency and facts. Just like Meg Carter, he obviously missed those lessons in his journalism class.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It's in my notes...

...Yeah, sure it is, Mr. Skywalker, Dark Lord of the Shit. Bullshit, that is. Ok, I know that was kind of a stretch, but given the fact that Hayden Christensen brought his great emo teenager acting sensibilities to the roles of both Stephen Glass and the young Darth Vader to be, I thought it was appropriate. All joking aside, "Shattered Glass" certainly brought up a lot of great ethical and practical questions about certain aspects of the journalism profession and about the nature of trust. Is anyone else a little blown away by the the fact that "fact-checking" for the New Republic could, in some cases, consist of going over the handwritten notes of reporters---treating them as completely rebuttable sources? Surely, there has to be more to the process, but if Mr. Glass really got away with fabricating as many stories as he did...perhaps not. And speaking of Mr. Glass, one has to wonder if the real Stephen had any imput on the film that showcased his exploits, given his enourmous ego and his apparent proficiency at telling entertaining stories. And, have you ever met anyone like Stephen Glass in your own life? Someone so full of shit that once their charade is exposed it's almost impossible to take them seriously ever again. I know I have. I could certainly identify the moment that happened for editor extraordinae Chuck: when Glass looked him in the eye one last time, claiming that he had met one of his fictional sources before.

Monday, February 2, 2009


While researching about the different philosophies to find one that defines what I believe, I found myself taking bits and pieces from each one to make my own. This closely resembles my experiences in finding a religion that makes sense. We all have good ideas that make sometimes make sense to other people, but I think it would have been weird if I would have agreed with any philosopher 100 percent. I was really glad that most of the class felt the same way. I don’t care enough to sit down and write out every ethic or philosophy I believe in because every situation is different. It makes more sense to play decisions by ear and just do what feels right. If we all try to stay balanced and accurate, our stories will reflect that.