Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Patrick Schneider: Where is the line?

In an ideal world, knowing where to draw the line in terms of what is acceptable in photo manipulation would be as easy as saying don't do it, at all. However, in a world of digital photography where electronic image sensors actively attract dust and automatic white balances give faulty colors, post-processing is often a necessity. Those needs transform what would be a stark line into a fuzzy mess.

In 2003 the North Carolina Press Photographers Association rescinded three picture of the year awards it had given to Patrick Schneider of the Charlotte Observer. After concerns were raised by by other photographers, an examination had found that his contest shots had been altered significantly enough to change the content and scene of the photos. Those images are compared before and after manipulation by Poynter here.

The problem lies in deciding what types, and what amount of manipulation is ethically allowable. Schneider has made the argument that the techniques he used when editing his photos were processes, like dodging and burning, that had been used since the dawn of photography in the dark room, only transferred to the computer. On this point, he is correct. It should be made clear though, that there is a long history of image manipulation that occurred before the invention of digital processing. Just because something is possible in the dark room does not make it acceptable. Schneider's manipulations, in at least the image whose background was removed, took those simple techniques to an extreme that effectively changed the photo's content.

Just after he was stripped of his awards, Schneider appeared on NPR's All Things Considered talking about what he had done. It appears as though he was making no attempt to maliciously deceive his editors or the public. He was simply unable to resist the desire to manipulate his photos to give them more impact. He even acknowledged that his edits went over the line.

"I know that I probably went too far on some of my burns, and my paper has made our standards clear," said Schneider in interview with Poynter's Kennith Irby during NPPA's 14th annual Women in Photojournalism conference in 2003. "I will no longer tone my background down that far."

As a reaction the Observer, and papers across the country, tightened its photo ethics guidelines. The paper also gave Schneider a stern warning to not manipulate any more images, at all.

Three years later, in 2006, Schneider altered the colors in a photo of a firefighter silhouetted against the sun atop a ladder. When the change was discovered, he was fired from the paper. In reality, the manipulation in this image is not extreme or malicious, but Schneider's history made it the straw that broke the camel's back.

In the end, Schneider's case has come to serve as a warning to other photojournalists. Any manipulation, not just malicious, can get you in serious trouble and cost you your career. One must only use manipulation software for the simplest of edits. In general, if you are making an edit to actively give an image more impact stop take a step back. You are likely far closer to that fuzzy line than you should be.

Dan Rather and CBS

On Sept. 8, 2004, Dan Rather reported on 60 Minutes for their Wednesday edition that a series of memos critical of President George Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record had been discovered. The memos were found in the personal offices of Lt. Bush's former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry B Killian. The authenticity of these documents quickly gathered suspicion by a small group of conservative bloggers. They initially based their reasoning that the memos were proportionally printed and displayed other modern typographic conventions with limited availability on military typewriters of the time. This led to claims that the memos were forgeries. The accusations then spread over the following days into mainstream media outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Chicago Sun-Times. CBS and Dan rather initially defended the story. The insisted that the documents were authenticated by experts. After contradiction and curiosity, CBS found that the memos had been forged. After the incident, Dan Rather said he was pressured into reporting that their story was incomplete and misleading to the public.
CBS then forced Dan Rather to resign from his current anchor position, which was quickly followed by a suit from Rather. On the petition was Leslie Moonves, chief executive, Viacom's executive chairman, Sumner Redstone and Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS. According to SPJ Code of Ethics, journalists should be honest, fair and courageous. They should also seek truth and report it accurately. CBS failed to get proper and accurate sources for their story. Another point on the code of ethics would be having accountability for stories. Dan Rather worked for CBS and was a high profile journalist. After the controversy, he immediately put the blame on the CBS executives. As journalists, we are responsible for our reporting and what we make public to the media.

By: Lauren Bickford and Cassie Delgado

Plata o plomo?

"Money or lead?" is what residents from the U.S.-Mexico border are being asked, according to ABC news.

How far should news coverage go if life is threatened? Reporting on the border turn out to be one of the dangerous assignments a reporter can take.

According to the International Herald Tribune, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places to practice journalism, outside of Iraq. The San Antonio Express-News says Mexico is among the deadliest places to be a journalist.

"Drug dealers and corrupt police officers regularly kill those who write about them, leading most reporters to censor themselves," the International Herald Tribune reads.

Should reporters risk their lives to cover the news? How far should the media go in getting the news?

Nuevo Laredo is a small town with a population over 350,000 (census 2005). Located across from Laredo, TX, it has made perfect spot for drug smuggling for years.

According to the Laredo Morning Times, the history of violence began in 2001 when the Gulf cartel’s Zeta battled for control in Nuevo Laredo against the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera, according to federal court documents.

In 2001, the Zeta group rented houses for drug trafficking.
According to the Laredo Morning Times, the Zetas were involved in shipping firearms from Dallas to Nuevo Laredo in 2003.

By 2005, Zetas, both U.S. and Mexican citizens, had safe houses in Laredo. There, they staged at least five assassinations between June of that year and April 2006, the Laredo Morning Times reads.

The Times mentions that according to authorities, Sinaloa hit men were also active in Laredo. Two hits, which were attributed to sicarios for the Chapos, were reported in 2005.

The Zetas outsourced their crimes in 2006 to prison gangs. Zetas contracted Texas Syndicate members to kidnap a victim, the Laredo Morning Times reads and according to a criminal complaint filed by Laredo police.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Janet Cooke: "Jimmy's World"

Janet Cooke was a reporter for the Washington Post when she won the Pulitzer Prize for her feature about a third-generation, 8-year-old heroin addict. Two days after receiving the award, Janet confessed that the story was fabricated. She later returned the Pulitzer Prize, and resigned from The Post.

Cooke had worked at the Post for two years before being offered a position as a “Weeklies” writer. To solidify her position, Cooke lied about her background. She claimed she had studied at the Sorbonne University, had a degree from Vassar College and received an award from her previous job at the Toledo Blade newspaper.

On Sept. 29, 1980, The Post published an article by Cooke titled “Jimmy’s World.” The article told the story of Jimmy, a young boy addicted to heroin living in a drug-dealing household. The story became an overnight controversy, and cultivated intense sympathy among readers including the mayor of Washington, D.C.

Urged on by social outrage, the mayor and other city officials organized a search for the boy. Suspicion arose about the story’s validity when the search was unsuccessful. Yet, to calm citizens, the mayor claimed that Jimmy was known to the city and receiving treatment.

Despite mounting suspicions about the story, The Post defended Cooke and her story. Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward later submitted “Jimmy’s World” for the Pulitzer Prize. Cooke won, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in April 1981.

When editors at the Toledo Blade read her biography from the Pulitzer, they noticed discrepancies. The two universities she had lied about, also noticed the discrepancies and phoned the Post. Further investigation exposed that Cooke’s had lied to The Post about her credentials. Pressured by her editors, Cooke confessed to everything.

Post publisher, Donald Graham, held a press conference two days after the prize was awarded and admitted the story was fabricated. A public apology appeared in the next day’s edition. Cooke then resigned from The Post and returned the Pulitzer Prize.

In 1982, she appeared on the Phil Donahue show to explain her situation. She claimed that the high-pressure environment had “corrupted her judgment.” She said sources had hinted at the existence of a child like Jimmy. However, when she was unable to find such a child, she fabricated the story to satisfy her editors.

In the journalism world, composite characters are acceptable. However, the audience must clearly be aware that the character is a composite and not an actual person. Typical characters are named something obvious like “John Doe,” or something average like "Mary" or "Joe" to clearly show that the character is an example. Readers will accept hypothetical illustrations if they deal with average-sounding people as examples.

Janet Cooke broke journalistic and ethical rules when she created the character Jimmy. She went into such detail and presented him in such a way that he went from being a composite character to a real boy. Cooke presented quotes in a manner that implied she had interviewed an actual person. She also falsified quotes from experts, and created quotes from Jimmy’s family.

Though Cooke claimed to have been over-worked, and simply trying to please her editors, what she did is unforgivable in the journalism world. Not only did she bring suspicion to the Washington Post, but also the rest of the journalism community. Each time readers are confronted with lapses in ethical judgment like Cooke’s, their trust in media waivers.

In Harm's Way: Covering Crime in Mexico.

Alfredo Jimenez Mota of El Imparcial in Hermosillo, missing since April 02, 2005; Dolores Guadalupe Garcia Escamilla, Crime reporter for Stereo 91 XHNOE in Nuevo Laredo, shot in the street, she died of her injuries on April 16, 2005;Raul Gibb Guerrero, editor of La Opinion, murdered on April 5, 2005, in Vera Cruz state.

In the raging war between drug cartels in Mexico, journalists are often the victim.

According to the L.A. Times, 45 journalists in Mexico have been murdered since 2000. Violence in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo and Ciduad Juarez, where drug cartels compete over the illegal drug market in the United States, is particularly gruesome.

In Nuevo Laredo in 2005, a police chief was shot at least 35 times, hours after taking office. His predeccessor had also been the victim of gang violence. That summer all 700 officers in the city's police force were fired on corruption charges.
Some Mexican media outlets, have stopped covering gang-related murders and stopped including bylines with the stories they do print.

In 2006,gunman armed with grenades and rifles barged into the El Manana newspaper in Nuevo Laredo and killed one reporter and left another paralyzed. According to Media Life, an El Manana reporter said, "It's not just the narco-wars we can't cover, the problem is that drug trafficking, affects all aspects of life, so we have to be careful when we cover the police, government, business-- everything. It doesn't matter if you work for TV, newspaper or radio, we all practice self-censorship now. It is the only way to survive."

Violence in the border cities has given Americans a window view into the inherent danger of reporting crime in Mexico and some American editors have decided to pull their reporters out of Mexico.

Though Mexican Drug Cartels have yet to kill an American reporter,in July of 2007, San Antonio Express-News reporter, Mariano Castillo was pulled out of the Laredo bureau when a source told him a drug cartel was planning to kill a U.S. reporter working in Laredo.

According to the Express-News, Castillo said, "With each byline on a narco story, I get a little more paranoid when I'm in Nuevo Laredo. The cartels have lookouts ... on many street corners. I'm always checking my mirror and taking a different road if I think someone is following me."

The Dallas Morning News also temporarily removed their reporters from Mexico following the threat, according to the Express-News.

Should reporters self-censor for fear of violent reprisal? If so are newspapers serving the public, or allowing a dangerous situation to intensify?

An official at Amnesty International wrote, "nearly every newspaper and news outlet in northern Mexico has instituted a policy of self-censorship in order to protect their reporters. As such, criminals perpetrating violence are able to increase violent activities with little chance of being exposed by government officials or the press, thus contributing to further human rights abuses."

Is it important that our fellow reporters in Mexico know they have our support North of the border? Or would American editors be asking too much of their reporters by keeping them in Mexico, when there are threats of violence?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Eddie Adams: "Execution of a Viet Cong"

The picture above was taken by the late AP photographer, Eddie Adams, during the Vietnam War. It includes the South Vietnamese Colonel, Nguyan Ngoc Loan, shooting a bullet to the temple of a prisoner of war who was a Viet Cong captain. The picture made headlines around the United States hours after Adams turned in the photo. It was a image that would change the view of the war. It had a good impact for the photographer and the world and a bad impact for the shooter in the picture.

The picture, which was called “Execution of A Viet Cong", was taken Feb. 1, 1968, the second day of the communist’s Tet Offensive, or the North Vietnamese army attacks on Saigon and other parts of South Vietnam. It was most noted for turning Americans public opinion against the war.

The photo was shocking and horrific to many around the world. It showed the brutality of the Vietnam War. To Adams, it was an everyday thing. He had said in an interview that he was used to seeing people getting shot, soldiers putting guns against other peoples head. To Americans, this was something new and horrific.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, journalists should: seek the truth and report it. The execution showed war in it’s purist form. Adams wasn’t the only media there that day. NBC’s camera crew were there catching the aftermath of the execution.

They should also recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort, according to the Code of Ethics.

In an article by Jonah Goldberg, “There Are Tears in My Eyes”, he explains that the photo that Adams took was referred to CNN as being ‘atrocious’ and a ‘ignoble deed’, and it ruined police chief Loan’s life.
“More to the point, it didn’t expand on our right to know,” said Goldberg. “It didn’t answer questions, or give us the story. It deceived. It gave no context. It confirmed the biases of the anti-war journalists, and they used it to further their agenda.”

Adams would later win a Pulitzer Prize for the execution photograph.
Eddie Adams Talk About The Saigon Execution Photo
from YouTube

The Execution from YouTube

Friday, November 21, 2008

Time magazine published a cover of O.J. Simpson in the June27, 1994 issue. Time illustrator, Mark Mahurin, digitally manipulated the photograph to make Simpson’s skin tone darker. Newsweek ran the same photo for their cover, but it was unaltered.

The conflicting values in this case are honesty v personal gain from improved level of work. These values cause one to examine which principles of journalism ethics were crossed.

Truthfulness of the photograph, how accurate was the photo and was the photo fair to the subject?

Is it ethical to manipulate a photograph for a private aesthetic reason, such as raising the level of your work?

Truthfulness in any published work is of utmost importance. To be untrue in your work, even once, reflects upon all of your past, present and future projects. In addition, untruths damage the media world around you, including your employer and peers.

Accuracy of any published work is also very important. It is a top priority of a journalist’s job to be accurate in all aspects of reporting. Inaccuracy can lead to massive misunderstanding by the audience, an audience which extends far and wide. The media plays a huge role in educating the public.

Fairness to the subject in question, as well as being fair to the reader is a result of whether or not the principles of truthfulness and accuracy were crossed. It is unfair to the subject in the photograph to be portrayed in a false light. It’s also unfair to the magazine’s audience because they are unknowingly being deceived.

At the time of publication, Simpson was on trial for the murder of his wife. The darkened image could lead the public to misinterpret the photograph and believe that he was guilty, because our society tends to look upon darker skinned black people as being of a lower social class, more criminally inclined and more likely to be guilty of a wrong-doing.

Value-based theory, deontological theory and teleological theory, the three philosophical foundations of ethics, apply to this case.

The value-based theory, based on care, is related to the fairness principle that was crossed. Care of the subject was not taken, evident by the blatant unfairness of the situation. Duty-based ethics is also called into question because it is the journalist’s duty to uphold all ethical aspects of his profession. To fail in this matter means to fail to accomplish a finished work. Finally, teleological theory involves the consequences of the questionable ethical problem. This theory was put to work because of the natural response society has to personality traits associated with certain races, and the misinterpretation of these stereo-types.

The illustrator in question crossed the ethical lines of his profession when he digitally manipulated a photograph, prior to publishing.

The public audience might view the altered photograph of Simpson and rightly presume the photo to be a true picture of him, to be an accurate photo of the subject within the context of the photographed environment and bearing these theories correct would result in fairness to both the subject and the public audience.

Katherine Abbott

Thursday, November 20, 2008

'Best of' clip, courtesy of msnbc.com

Highlights of 'predator' investigations
Highlights of 'predator' investigations

NBC's 'To Catch a Predator' raises concerns about ethics

By Andrew Hampel

NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” which aired from November 2004 to July 2007, centered on finding an apprehending men who used the internet to speak to and schedule meetings with children under the age of consent.

Chris Hansen, who joined NBC’s “Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric” in May 1993,” hosted “To Catch a Predator” and conducted 11 undercover operations with the help of Perverted-Justice. According to the Pervert-Justice Web site, the company intends “to root out people who use the internet to sexually abuse and prey upon children.” Additionally, law enforcement officers have participated in the undercover operations since the series third episode.

The undercover operations on “To Catch a Predator” raised a number of ethical concerns.
Brian Montopoli, former contributor for the “Columbia Journalism Review,” wrote on CBS News Public Eye blog that “To Catch a Predator”-related cases were vulnerable to the defense of entrapment. Montopoli’s remark came after a comment Stone Philips, an NBC news anchor, made in a blog post titled Why It’s Not Entrapment. Philips said the decoys Perverted-Justice employed to speak to suspected predators typically initiated the discussion of sex.

The series raised concern about conflicts of interest. According to an article by Paul Farhi on the Washington Post Web site, “Dateline” officials paid Pervert-Justice more than $100,000 to help conduct an operation in Greenville, Ohio, which included the arrest of 18 men. According to the article, Police officials deputized members of Perverted-Justice for the duration of the operation, which changed “To Catch a Predator” into a law enforcement operation (rather than an investigative report, which is how NBC originally described the show). The fee NBC officials paid Perverted-Justice also violated the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which states that reporters should act independently and discourages the practice of paying for sources.

Jack Kelley-Situational Definition

Photo from PBS.org-Case Study: Jack Kelley and USA Today

After working at USA Today for 21 years, War Correspondent Jack Kelley resigned on Jan. 6, 2004 during an investigation of his work. An anonymous letter that was sent to the publication’s then executive editor, Brian Gallagher, sparked the investigation in May 2003. The staff first investigated Kelley’s 1999 story in which he wrote in-detail about a three-ring notebook where he reported to have seen information on ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Without anyone to confirm the story, Kelley offered the investigation a translator’s name. However, it was discovered that the translator was hired by Kelley to read from a script- something they would find was not a new tactic for Kelley.

USA Today then launched an investigation of 720 stories by the five-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, and found more fabrication in Kelley’s works. They released a series of articles in March 2004 detailing their findings.

A final investigation resulted in the release of a 28-page report on April 22, 2004. It was a harsh analysis of the newspaper, and revealed Kelley’s frequent use of anonymous sources were often illegitimate. He had plagiarized quotes and other materials, lied in speeches for the newspaper and used false sources to cover his tracks when people questioned his work. 

On April 20, 2004, Karen Jurgensen, USA Today top editor, resigned because of her work with Kelley. Soon after her resignation, Hal Ritter, managing editor, also resigned and Brian Gallagher, executive editor, stepped down to an editorial page editor.

USA Today reported on their own story through statements, the final investigation report and retractions. Although it was ultimately Kelley who lied and stole material, the newspaper has an obligation to the public to make sure its writers are telling the truth. The 2004 investigation report said news editors and other USA Today staff members were not as concerned about reporters getting the facts right as they were with producing better stories than their competitors. From the 2004 report, Kelley said when USA Today’s policy changed in 1995 to allow confidential sources to compete with other media, he felt pressured to perform at a higher level. That policy made it easier for him to get away with using false anonymous sources, embellishing portions or complete situations and lifting quotes from other major publications without editors noticing.  

The 2004 final report on the Kelley investigation pointed out USA Today’s biggest mistakes:

 1. Kelley’s editors and co-workers had heard questions about his work from other reports and outside sources as far back as 1991, yet an investigation of his work was not addressed until the anonymous letter.

  2. A “virus of fear” was present in the news section of the paper, preventing staff from complaining about Kelley.

3. Kelley was credited as the paper’s “star,” and his friendships with USA Today executives helped keep his lies unknown and his name unquestionable.

4. The editor’s did not follow their guidelines and policies before printing Kelley’s work. The editor’s trust in Kelley let him abuse the use of anonymous sources, and without following their policies they have caused harm to the paper.

5. The report suggests USA Today’s lines of communication through sections and levels of employment were broken, contributing to the continued publication of Kelley’s false work.

6. The previous investigations were not conclusive in revealing Kelley’s fraud because it was done to prove he had done nothing wrong. However, this report says otherwise.

The conflicting values USA Today dealt with included telling the truth, trusting its staff, making money, accepting criticism and increasing its audience.

Is it accurate for USA Today to relax its fact and source verification methods in order to compete with other publications for the best stories?

USA Today’s value of telling the truth was pushed aside while the staff struggled to compete for the best stories. USA Today’s ethical policy to be accountable was undermined by the trust of their staff, especially their “star,” Jack Kelley. The newspaper’s repeated refusal to correctly address the outside and inside criticism of Kelley’s work ultimately damaged the newspaper, each reporter, journalists everywhere and their audience.

Example of Kelley Reporting (from You Tube)

II. Jack Kelly -- Analysis of the Situation

The only positive aspect that Jack Kelley had going for him was to sustain his career. His actions were mostly negative. The exact reason for him fabricating stories is unknown as he has never publicly stated a reason to justify why he opted to single handily tarnish his career. However, the fact that he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize a total of five times might be a good reason that he elected to keep on writing stories that are now in hindsight seen as contrite. He was also seen as the star of the newsroom by always appearing as one of the faces of USA Today. So maybe his reasoning to act the way he did was to uphold this star status.

USA Today’s reputation as well as editors and himself were affected by his bad decisions. Staffers at USA Today that include Karen Jurgensen Brian Gallagher, Hal Ritter and Jack Kelley all resigned as a result of Kelley’s fraudulent reporting.

Staff members were in the wrong, too, as an extensive report on Kelley indicates that some of them were skeptical of his writing. The fact that no one stood up to express these concerns is wrong as well. Newsrooms should be open to addressing any concern that might arise, particularly if someone is even at the least bit suspicious of something or someone. The staffers not reporting this to a higher authority is amiss to their journalistic values.


Mayors Romance

In July 2007, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a statement that he and his wife of 2o years were separating. Later that day, on the evening news, Telemundo television anchor, Mirthala Salinas, delivered the story to her Spanish-language viewers.

What Salinas forget to mention was that she was the other woman in Villaraigosa’s life. Later, both confirmed the affair in separate statements.

“I have a relationship with Ms. Salinas, and I take full responsibility for my actions,” said Villaraigosa.

“I first got to know the mayor at professional level,” Salinas said. “The current relationship grew out of our existing relationship.”

Rumors of the relationship had surfaced in late January via blogs commenting on the secret lovers. Pictures showed up of the two together as well as a rumor that Salinas was pregnant, which Villaraigosa denied in his statement about the affair.

In an interesting twist, this is not the first time either one of the public figures have been involved in affairs. Villaraigosa has two daughters out of wed lock which led to his wife filing for divorce in 1994, but later the couple reconciled.

Salina’s was involved in a relationship with another politician in 2003, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who was a longtime friend and ally of Villaraigosa. At the time, the revelation raised questions about Salinas’ ethical standards.

Many people feel she again compromised her journalistic integrity to sleep with Villaraigosa on whom she was reporting. Salinas has been chastised for continuing covering the mayor throughout their affair.

“There really is no question that this is unacceptable,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. “You can’t sleep with your sources. This one sort of transcends the boundaries in any ethical newsroom.”

Both Telemundo executives and Villaraigosa stood up for Salinas and her journalistic integrity.

“Mirthala Salinas is one of our most respected reporters and a great professional,” said Manual Abud, Telemundo’s general manager in Las Angeles. “Telemundo is fully committed to journalistic excellence. Every day we strive for the highest standards of journalistic ethics and make every effort to protect our objectivity and possible conflicts of interest.”

It has not clear how long Telemundo knew about the affair, but others in the journalism world have criticized the Spanish-language station for allowing Salinas to break the news of Villaraigosa’s separation.

“I think Telemundo is going to have to really take a hard look at this,” said Laura Castaneda, an associate professor of professional practice for the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. “It doesn’t reflect well. Telemundo has no excuse.”

After Salinas’s suspension in August, she was transferred out of Las Angeles to the Telemundo Inland Empire news bureau to be paired with Mary Parks at KNBC-TV.

III. Our decision on Jack Kelley's actions

Jack Kelley was in the wrong. He broke the cardinal rule of being an ethical journalist. He lied, he didn't didn't seek truth and as a matter of fact he didn't seek anything considering he made his stories up.

He lifted quotes without attribution. He plagiarized, embellished and at times fabricated stories on foreign-terrorism. He also produced scripts and gave them to associates in the event that he got caught so they could confirm his sources under false pretenses.

these actions go directly against the SPJ code of ethics. Even though he gained national recognition and Pulitzer prize nominations, he failed to act as an ethical journalist. Every reporter should put truth first and self second. his decisions ultimately cost him his career and reputation.

We also think that USA Today was partially in the wrong for not checking his sources. they to sought to be recognized and failed to act as a reputable media source. Although deadlines may have been a factor, even an after the fact checking of sources could have stopped this situation before it snowballed into the situation it did. Although USA is the nations largest newspaper, the situation could have cost them all more than just a damaged reputation had it gone any further than it did.

Our decision came about because as journalists, we are taught from the beginning not to fabricate stories, or plagiarize. Truth is the basis of journalism.

The ethical question at hand: Is photo tampering, even without changing the context of a situation acceptable in journalism?

The Facts: Brian Walski, a staff photographer and 30-year news veteran combined two images that were taken during the Iraq conflict involving a British solider and Iraqi civilians. Brian Walski was fired promptly by the LA Times for this and has yet to find prominent work in photojournalism since.

Analysis: The two photographs in question were not taken on separate days, or even relatively separate times. His composite image in no way threw the concept of what was taking place out the window. It was simply a choice of aesthetic composition of an image. This being considered, was Brian's choice unethical. He was only trying to deliver a powerful image, not attempting to deceive anyone.

The issues at hand defintely appear to be truth vs livelihood. Brian's livelihood is based in his product; the photos he takes. If he cannot produce powerful images, he will not be kept on staff and therefore have to look for another job. On the other side of the coin is his code of ethics as a journalim, the most important being "Tell the Truth"

Bottom Line: While Walski in the end chooses one over the other, I think we can all agree that he made a poor choice between ethical dillemas. His duty to tell the truth as a journalist should come before anything else, especially when concerning his livlihood. After all it was this choice that caused him to lose his job and never again be able to return to this job on a professional level. Even though this image is not one of deception, it brings into question his entire career as a photojournalist and severly compromises his integrity.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Ethics Assignment

Mass communication professionals face ethical dilemmas daily. What may be a breech of ethics in one mass communication profession, may be acceptable in another. For example, advertising professionals may easily accept free tickets from a client, but a journalist could be fired for accepting a gift.

Find a journalist whose ethical breech made news, or you may choose a journalist whose stand on ethics caused hardship but he or she stood fast. We can learn from the mistakes of others and be emboldened by the courage of those who take a stand.

What is required:
Post a synopsis of your material on this class Ethics Blog.
You may post text, photos, whatever fits your project.
Remember: This is a public site. Respect copyright. Your material may be read by others. You will be evaluated on the quality of your writing and material submitted.
This should help you focus on what to share with us during your class presentation.
It will be helpful to refer to professional codes of ethics during your presentation, such as the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Presentation to the class
Present using the blog as a visual. You may also have handouts.
Tell us about the ethics issue and engage the class in discussion on the topic.

You may choose to work as a group on this. The same information is required whether done individually or as a group. You post to the class ethics blog as a group, which means one person may post and others comment or each of you may post pieces of the project, but each person must have a presence on the blog. If done as a group, I will expect you to excel in engaging the class and make a dynamic presentation. Each member of the group will be expected to participate fully.
You may have up to 3 group members.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Who Cleaned up That Shattered GLASS?

After being fired from The New Republic in 1998 Glass went to Georgetown University Law Center. He has completed his law degree and has passed the written portion of the New York State bar exam, but has yet to be admitted to the bar.

Glass wrote a novel called The Fabulist that was released in 2003. Forbes Magazine published a book review in which The Fabulist publishers Simon and Schuster, along with the novel, are sufficiently bashed. An interesting aspect of this Stephen Glass scandal is the reaction from the rest of the media. Glass was outcast and ridiculed during the time of his scandal. The release of his novel was seen as a last ditch effort to apologize to TNR and the rest of the media…sort of. It seems as though every one is just fed up with Stephen Glass and no one really believes a word he says.

Mark Lewis of Forbes Magazine writes, “Glass is said to be working on a second novel, but his first one will not leave its readers eager for more. It does, however, leave them puzzling over which parts of it are entirely autobiographical and which (if any) are wholly the product of the author's imagination.”

Poynter Online spurred interesting discourse about The Fabulist on Book Babes The Nonfiction Fabulist.

Shattered Glass, directed by Billy Ray, was released in 2003. IMDB describes it as a “true story of a young journalist who fell from grace when it was found he had fabricated over half of his articles.


Why Couldn't They See Through GLASS?

Stephen Glass’ stories were so good they seemed too-good-to-be-true. This raises the question of what The New Republic was doing for the three years that Glass was writing fabrications? How did he get past their fact checkers? For that matter how did it all slip under the radar of the entire journalism community?

Glass got by because he was careful and thorough. According to Glass’ interview with 60 Minutes he “knew how the system worked.” All of his fake notes and phony voicemail boxes work on TNR’s fact checkers. He even slipped under the nose of Slate Magazine reporter (and skeptic) Jack Shafer. In Glass Houses, Shafer wrote about how ridiculous it was that Glass could trick everyone when merely making a few phone calls or doing an internet search would expose him.

Ultimately, Glass' fabrications were revealed by Forbes Digital Tool, the fact checker. Forbes magazine informed Charles Lane of the discrepancies in Glass’ stories and informed him that they would go to press about it. Only after this happened did Lane issue a press release saying that TNR had fired Stephen Glass.

In the 60 Minutes piece, Lane said the responsibility lay with the magazine. He admitted that TNR failed to make sure that what was published was “good journalism.”

“The only thing I think you can say in defense of The New Republic was that we were up against somebody, at the time, who was really determined to deceive the magazine,” said Lane.

A Slippery Slope Made of GLASS

A 15-year-old boy, named Ian Restil, hacked into the computer systems of big-time software firm, Jukt Micronics. Inside the company’s system, Restil posted the salaries of all of Jukt Micronics employees on the company website as well as naked pictures and a caption for each that said “THE BIG BAD BIONIC BOY HAS BEEN HERE BABY.”

Sounds good right? Just wait. Instead of filing suit against the teen, Jukt Micronics decides it would be better if they hired him on as a security specialist, so Jukt’s people meet with Restil and his mother and his agent (hackers have agents), Joe Hiert, to negotiate his new job at the place where the National Assembly for Hackers was being held.

What would you do if a report that you worked with came to you with a story like this? Would you be skeptical or would you buy into it? It’s a great story. It meant that rebellion can be rewarded and stickin’ it to the man might actually pay off.

Unfortunately, not a single word of it was true. Jukt Micronics, Restil, his agent, his mother, and even the National Assembly for Hackers were all fabricated.

Everyone who worked at The New Republic in 1998 bought into it, and the story “Hack Heaven” was published in TNR on May 18, 1998.

At 25 Stephen Glass was the youngest reporter at TNR, and he made a decision that would change the rest of his life. He decided to lie, and figured out how to get past TNR fact checkers. He created phony notes, diagrams of conferences that didn’t take place, phone numbers and emails of people who didn’t exist, phony voicemail boxes and phony business cards, and even fake news letters.

You might be thinking “Why on Earth would any journalist in their right mind decide to do this?” In a 60 Minutes interview on August 17, 2003, it seems that Glass wasn’t in his right mind. What started as a few lies to bolster one story turned into completely fabricated whole pieces of journalism.

“I remember thinking, ‘If I just had the exact quote that I wanted to make it work, it would be perfect.’ (…) And I said to myself what I said every time these stories ran, ‘You must stop. You must stop.’ But I didn’t,” Glass said in the 60 Minutes interview.

According to the 60 Minutes interview, soon after joining TNR as an editorial assistant in 1995, Glass was assigned a story on a piece of Washington Legislation. He decided it needed a little “sprucing up.”

That was just the beginning of a career of lies. Glass became caught up in his lies because he loved the feeling he got from people liking his stories.

Unfortunately, we can't see any of Glass' other fabricated stories. A great compilation of most (if not all) of his fabricated stories once existed at A Tissue of Lies--The Stephen R. Glass Index. However, none of the stories are accessible, presumably because The New Republic and other publications took them all down. The site still exists as a reminder to all of the damage that one bad journalist can do to the entire industry.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The fallout from using fake documents

What happens when your newspaper gets caught using fake FBI documents?

It's simple: Your paper loses credibility with its readers. And it loses credibility with respected members of the journalism community.

Oh, and the other big papers/media entities get to do a whole bunch of fun reporting on the subject, showing exactly where your paper and the reporter goofed up.
It can't be fun working for a big paper that is getting smacked up by the competition like the New York Times and Washington Post.

Links to coverage of the Philips/L.A. Times debacle:




But the big question: Should the reporter who uses fake documents and gets caught keep his job? Apparently, the L.A. Times think so.
This came from one of the New York Times articles listed above:
"A spokeswoman for the newspaper said Mr. Philips, a Pulitzer Prize winner, would remain with the newspaper as an investigative reporter."

Chuck Philips defends his story

Chuck Philips, the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist who used fake FBI documents to suggest that Sean "Diddy" Combs ordered the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur at a New York recording studio, defended his article in an Online chat one day after the story was published online.

In March 18 chat, Philips says: "I am very confident that I have reported accurately what my sources said. And I feel confident that they know what happened. The documents supported what I learned. I believe what I wrote can withstand any legal challenge."

Ten days later an online investigative magazine, The Smoking Gun, proved that the FBI documents used in Philips' story were fabricated.

Here's a link to Philips' online chat:

What do you think?

Did Puff Daddy set up Tupac?

On March 17, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on its Web site, and followed two days later with a shorter print version, about a 1994 attack on rapper Tupac Shakur.

The article, written by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Chuck Philips, appeared to provide new insight into the incident where Shakur was shot five times in the lobby of a New York recording studio and robbed for his jewelery, the same attack that is widely believed to have officially started the bitter feud between East and West coast rappers.

Shakur survived the New York shooting, later penning numerous songs about the attack and his plotted revenge, but was fatally gunned down in 1996 in Las Vegas. His murder remains unsolved.

Since Tupac was killed, Philips and the L.A. Times have a written a number of controversial stories on the subject, including one where Philips uses unamed sources to report that New York rapper Notorius B.I.G., who was embroiled in a highly publicized beef with Tupac at the time, played a role in Tupac's death.
B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace, was killed six months after Shakur. His death, although rumored to be connected to Tupac's, also remains unsolved.
Here's a link to Philips' 2002 story where he reports that B.I.G. paid gang members to kill Tupac:
That particular story drew criticism from the Wallace family, which labeled Philips' reportage on the subject as one of the "most extreme examples of irresponsible journalism."
Link to Wallace family statement on Philips' reporting in 2002:

But Philips' most recent story on Tupac has come under a firestorm of criticism that could tarnish his personal reputation and that of his newspaper's indefinitely. In the story, Philips cited summaries of FBI interviews with an unamed informant that suggest Sean "Diddy" Combs set up the shooting against Tupac as a form of retribution. Philips never verified the validity of the documents with the FBI before writing his story.

The artilce, titled "An attack on Tupac Shakur launched a Hip Hop war," states:
"Now, newly discovered information, including interviews with people who were at the studio that night, lends credence to Shakur’s insistence that associates of rap impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs were behind the assault. Their alleged motives: to punish Shakur for disrespecting them and rejecting their business overtures and, not incidentally, to curry favor with Combs.

"FBI records obtained recently by The Times say that a confidential informant told authorities in 2002 that Rosemond and Sabatino 'set up the rapper Tupac Shakur to get shot at Quad Studios.'"

Link to Philips' entire story where he ties Diddy to Tupac's 1994 shooting:

Turns out that the documents used by Philips were fabricated by a con man serving time in federal prison. An award winning journalist covering the music industry for more than a decade and the fourth largest paper in the country got duped, it's that simple.
An online investigative magazine called The Smoking Gun first reported that the documents used by The Times were fabricated. The Smoking Gun points out a number of inconsistencies within the documents that simply didn't pass the smell test.
Link to the Smoking Gun story that exposed Philips and the Times:

Now, Philips and the L.A. Times are scrambling to make amends. The paper has since admitted the documents were fabricated, removed/retarcted the story from its Web siteand issued an formal apology to its readers.
Link to L.A. Times retraction and apology:

This isn't the first time that Philips' integrity as a reporter on the subject of Tupac and Biggie's killings has come into question. In 2005, Rolling Stone penned a 14,000 word article on the subject of Tupac and Biggie Smalls murders and raised questions about Philips' potentially close ties to Death Row CEO Suge Knight, the record label that employed Tupac, and Philips' apparently biased coverage of both murders.
Other journalists who have covered the murders also say that Philips has been less than fair in his coverage of the cases.
Link to the Rolling Stone and online magazine articles:

For veteran and budding journalists alike, the main issue raised in this situation is confirming the validity of documents before you write a story. This is not the first time a reporter has been duped by fake documents, just think about Dan Rather and you can begin to gauge how serious the issue is. This story didn't deal with the president, but it did deal with two of the biggest rappers ever and two of the most prominent unsolved murders in the past 25 years.
Philips' coverage of the Tupac and Biggie Smalls killings also raise interesting questions about the use of unamed sources and just how close of a friendship a reporter can forge with a source without compromising coverage.

More cool stuff to look at:
Link to the fake FBI documents that Philips used in his story:

Links to other stories Philips wrote about Tupac, Biggie and their associates:




Tupac Isn't Dead, he's in Mexico

A March 17 article about the 1994 attack on Tupac that first appeared on The Los Angeles Times Web site, was partially based on fraudulent documents. The Smoking Gun Web site first broke the story. The Times article claimed that the attack on Tupac was perpetrated by associates of Sean Combes, a.k.a. Diddy, P-Diddy, Puff Daddy. The article used several anonymous sources and F.B.I. documents that were forged by an inmate named James Sabatino. According to The Smoking Gun Web site, Sabatino is an "accomplished document forger and an audacious swindler who has created a fantasy world in which he managed hip-hop luminaries." Why reporter Chuck Philips would use this person as a source is beside me.
The F.B.I. documents sourced in the article were found to be fabricated because they contained numerous spelling errors and acronyms that the F.B.I. doesn't even use. To make matters worse, the documents were written by typewriter which the F.B.I. hasn't used to create documents in 30 years. None of these documents could be found on the F.B.I.'s database. These documents were connected back to Sabatino because when compared with other court documents created by Sabatino while in prison, there were similarities in spelling and grammar mistakes.
The L.A. Times running this story has resulted in them having to print a retraction and for the two responsible for the story, Chuck Philips and his deputy managing editor Marc Duvoisin, to apologize. Another result is the embarassment this must have caused the rest of the L.A. Times staff.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What Blair Never Learned

The question of Jayson Blair’s moral incompetence started before he ever set foot in The New York Times newsroom. According to an article by the Baltimore Sun, Blair was accused of numerous counts of slipshod journalism while working as a reporter and editor for The Diamondback, the campus newspaper for University of Maryland College Park.
After an investigation by a veteran editor, the university reported several factual errors and misquotes in many of Blair’s stories he reported for the Capital News Service, a student-staffed wire service.
Blair raised his fair share of eyebrows before leaving the UM campus, where he actually never earned a degree. Comments from former staffers cited Blair as someone who lied blatantly, plagiarized and was an “elbows-out competitor.” After the controversy a group of alumni from the newspaper wrote a letter criticizing the school for not tuning in to the Blair’s warning signs.
In Blair’s case, not only did he ruin his own short-lived journalism career, but he brought down the integrity of the newspaper where he worked. As a result of the controversy two Times editors resigned.
The lesson to learn here is to take full advantages of the training while you’re in school. Blair failed to abide by basic rules of journalism. Don’t steal quotes, fact check and just do lie. If a collegiate journalist decides to make habits these it could possibly set a trend that can continue into a professional career. If Blair’s case was nipped in bud the media might have been spared one more irresponsible journalist.

Rather on suing CBS and more on the Killian files

Another example of Dan Rather controversy

Blair and Blatant Plagiarism

Jayson Blair, former reporter for The New York Times, was discovered guilty of numerous counts of sloppy journalism in 2003 dating back to his college days.

Former San Antonio Express-News reporter, Macarena Hernandez broke the story after she discovered vital components of her story had trickled into a Blair Times story.

"I'd torn his story apart, diagramming the similarities. There was no doubt about it. It was my story. The plagiarism was extremely obvious, stealing lines and phrases that I had written verbatim,” she told Gigi Anders with the American Journalism Review in 2004.

In April 2003, Hernandez wrote a story about a single mother whose only son was reported as missing in action in Iraq. In the story Hernandez recounted visits with the anguished mother and described key elements of the setting only to find the exact details reprinted later in a Blair article. She told Anders she knew for sure Blair had never interviewed the woman after he called her to supposedly double check a quote he said the mother had given in Spanish. Unknown to Blair, the woman didn’t even speak Spanish.

The discovery of the Hernandez story copy-cat led to investigations by the University of Maryland and The Times. In addition to lifted quotes, his college-day stories included warped information and factual errors.

Well, that's just "Rather biased"

Background on the Killian documents:
On Sept. 8, 2004, CBS’ 60 Minutes aired a feature “For the Record” exposing documents regarding President George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard. The documents were obtained from Lt. Col. Bill Burket and contained criticisms of Bush’s Guard service by his commander, late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian.
Dan Rather reported on the television program that the Killian documents were obtained from Killian’s personal files, and incorrectly asserted that the documents had been researched and thoroughly authenticated by CBS.
Immediately, the authenticity was challenged by typographers who said the documents could not have come from the time frame indicated because of the type face used in the documents. CBS had received a faxed copy of the documents from Burket, who when asked for the originals claimed he burned them after sending them to CBS.
CBS and Rather continued to defend the documents despite criticisms from analysts and competitor news organizations. Finally, after two weeks, CBS backed away from the claim that the documents were legitimate and fired several people including the producer responsible for that segment, Mary Mapes.
Dan Rather has been accused several times over the course of his career for having a "liberal media slant." The timing of the release of these documents came only two months before the 2004 Presidential election, which also presented itself as unfair accusations in light of an election.


What to learn from Blair

What should a young journalist learn from the events surrounding Jayson Blair?

1) If you say you went somewhere, go there. If you say you saw something, you better have seen it.

2) Don't lie.

3) Don't make up people, quotes and events.

4) There needs to be a conversation going on in the newsroom between all levels, so editors having a problem with a writer can let their superiors know what is up before the writer is promoted.

5) Look at the last few years. If you want to become a novelist, or at least write a book and make news with it... do something extrememly unethical. Then deny it over and over. And then write a book saying you did it, or this is what you would have done if you had done it. The only setback is, you have to be famous (like a hall of fame running back), or work for a famous place (like New York Times or New Republic) in order to make headlines.

TIME Magazine's take on the fallout of Blair

all from TIME.com, Monday June 9, 2003
"Don't Blame It On Jayson Blair" - By JAMES PONIEWOZIK

When the New York Times's Jayson Blair was busted for plagiarism and fabrications--and then its star writer Rick Bragg was suspended and quit after claiming an intern's reporting as his own--the media lit up like the switchboard of a gossipy small town. Reporters investigated reporters. The Times newsroom erupted in finger pointing. Journalism professors raised themselves up on their suede elbow patches to tsk-tsk. Newspapers worriedly reviewed their policies. Collectively, we agonized: Will the public ever trust us again?

Don't sweat it! the public replied. We didn't trust you in the first place! That's the message, anyway, of a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll released last week. It found that only 36% of those polled believe the media generally "get the facts straight." But that number had not plummeted since the Blair scandal; in February, it was 39%, and in December 2000 it was 32%. In fact, only one-third of the people surveyed had even followed the Blair story.

The numbers may help explain why so few people had complained after Blair made up stuff about them--they assumed that that is just what reporters do. And the figures hint at why journalists are more fascinated by perfidy among our own than civilians are. Villains like Blair and their cut-and-dried crimes--lies bad, truth good!--are easier to deal with than the systemic problems with journalism that people really care about.

Journalists are nerdily literal-minded folk. When we say, "Does the public trust us?", we mean, "Do they think we're accurate?" The public has a more sophisticated definition of trust: Do the media respect me? Do they know how people like me live? Do they put news principles over the bottom line? Are they elitists, poseurs, sell-outs? Journalists think trust equals accuracy. But it's about much more: passion, genuineness, integrity.

In March, Gallup asked Americans to rate coverage of the Iraq war; 79% said it was good or excellent. But 38% said it was often inaccurate. Which means a fair chunk of the audience thought the media did a good, but inaccurate, job. Maybe they liked the media's wartime flag waving, were happy to see the media focus on a serious issue or understood that facts are always hard to pin down in war. Either way, the message is that truth is about more than facts. If people hate the media, it's not because Blair invented a tobacco field by Private First Class Jessica Lynch's house.

Why, then? Take your pick. There are the perennial charges of bias, which grow louder the more bitterly split the electorate gets. But there's also the problem that many big-media journalists are now cautious, well-paid conformists distant from their audiences and more responsive to urban elites, powerful people and megacorporations--especially the ones they work for. Hence the bland news anchors who verge on self-parody; magazines so commercial they're practically catalogs; timid pack journalism (We love dotcoms too! I mean, we never believed in them either!); local newscasts shilling for their corporate parents ("Up next: the hottest Survivor finale parties! Plus, the rest of the news!"); saturation coverage of trials-of-the-minute and movies we know will be lousy but will have big opening weekends. Yes, people watch and buy all this stuff. That doesn't mean they respect it. They see a profession that acts excited about a lot--Laci Peterson, The Matrix Reloaded, political horse races--but cares about nothing.

So it's not surprising that we've seen the runaway success of Fox News, which cares with a vengeance. Fox too is a big corporate entity that commits plenty of the above sins. But love it or hate it, Fox News also shows a passion for its job. Its pugilism and its high-decibel hosts' badly masked rightward leanings are journalistically incorrect, but they're not marketing (well, not just marketing). If Fox's political convictions often override its journalistic ones, at least it has convictions. Whereas when MSNBC slapped the flag onscreen and CNN hired Connie Chung for a shot of Fox-y tabloidism, it looked like the insincere opportunism that it was. Ironically, CNN brands itself the "most trusted name in news," and it has a deeper news bench than Fox. But CNN isn't the most watched name in news, perhaps because its definition of trust--"trust us to get accurate scoops"--is not the public's only priority.

The same goes for all of us. We can root out every error, every plagiarist, every bias--but it won't do any good if we replace them with a gutless inoffensiveness. We've spent a month being worried that our readers and viewers hate us because they think we're liars. Relax, brethren; they don't. They hate us because they think we're phonies.

Lessons of the Miller Affair

Lessons of the Miller Affair

By David Ignatius

Wednesday, October 5, 2005; Page A23

The warm tone of the letter from White House insider Lewis "Scooter" Libby to Judith Miller of the New York Times conveyed an essential reality of reporter-source relationships, which we in the media sometimes tend to play down: These are often relationships between like-minded people who care about the same issues and who become -- dare I say it? -- friendly.

"Your reporting, and you, are missed," began Vice President Cheney's chief of staff in his Sept. 15 letter releasing Miller from any pledge of confidentiality and urging her to testify in the Valerie Plame leak investigation. "You will have stories to cover -- Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work -- and life.

It's obvious that Libby cares about Miller and wants her to return to reporting on issues they both see as important. That sort of personal connection between reporter and source may strike some people as sinister, but it's the mother's milk of journalism. That's why people tell us things: Because we listen, and often sound sympathetic. Just ask Bob Woodward. But the true measure of a great reporter, as Woodward has shown time and again, is a willingness to bite the hands that feed you. And the measure of a great newspaper is editors who insist on that ultimate separation of reporter and source, but we'll come back to that.

I have no idea what further investigation will reveal about the discussions in the summer of 2003 between Miller and Libby. But I wouldn't be surprised if the evidence showed what's already obvious -- that she and Libby both cared deeply about whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and were frustrated by the failure to find any. Miller had won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on biological weapons, and she had spent many weeks in Iraq with the weapons survey group in a fruitless search for those weapons.

Journalists come in two basic varieties, hot and cold. Miller has always been the former. I've known her for 30 years, and I have seen the intensity that leads her to throw herself into story after story. She's being flayed now on the left because her reporting on WMD was too credulous, especially of self-interested sources such as Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi. But Miller was also one of the few reporters in the world who got the Osama bin Laden story right before Sept. 11.

Passionate is good when you agree with it and bad when you don't. That's the conclusion I draw from recent praise for crusading, engaged, sometimes tearful coverage of Hurricane Katrina by journalists such as NBC's Brian Williams and CNN's Anderson Cooper. I've always admired the dry-bones approach more, but I understand why people want journalists to lean into the story.

The big lesson of the Miller affair, for me, is that editors are crucial in mediating the relationships between reporters and sources. Almost by definition, those relationships become incestuous -- with journalists and their sources chasing the same facts and often seeking to right the same wrongs. It's the job of editors to intervene in this process -- and demand to know, on behalf of readers, whether a story is really true. In Miller's case, she filed stories about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction based on what her sources had told her, but the crucial judgment lay in the hands of her editors.

This process of editorial intervention is even more important when it comes to making promises to sources about confidentiality. Reporters shouldn't be able to decide unilaterally to whom they will attach their newspaper's reputation. Editors should agree to absolute confidentiality only in the rarest cases. In my years as an editor, I often asked reporters to go back and tell an anonymous source that if we got sued based on what he had told us, we wanted the right to subpoena that source and his records, to defend ourselves. If the source refused, sometimes we would walk away; other times, based on the importance of the information to the public, we would extend the absolute protection he requested. Some version of that Miranda warning to sources seems essential to me.

When Miller emerged from prison, she urged passage of a federal shield law, and she's right about that. But while we're waiting for a media-friendly Congress, we journalists should look more closely at our own rules. Reporters and their sources shouldn't determine a newspaper's agenda, much less whether a reporter should go to jail in defiance of a grand jury subpoena. That's a job for editors and their publishers.

This is the editorial that was published in the New York Times when Miller was sent to jail. The paper stood behind the reporter and believed Miller was guarding journalists' basic principles.

Published: July 7, 2005

This is a proud but awful moment for The New York Times and its employees. One of our reporters, Judith Miller, has decided to accept a jail sentence rather than testify before a grand jury about one of her confidential sources. Ms. Miller has taken a path that will be lonely and painful for her and her family and friends. We wish she did not have to choose it, but we are certain she did the right thing.

She is surrendering her liberty in defense of a greater liberty, granted to a free press by the founding fathers so journalists can work on behalf of the public without fear of regulation or retaliation from any branch of government.

The Press and the Law

Some people - including, sadly, some of our colleagues in the news media - have mistakenly assumed that a reporter and a news organization place themselves above the law by rejecting a court order to testify. Nothing could be further from the truth. When another Times reporter, M. A. Farber, went to jail in 1978 rather than release his confidential notes, he declared, "I have no such right and I seek none."

By accepting her sentence, Ms. Miller bowed to the authority of the court. But she acted in the great tradition of civil disobedience that began with this nation's founding, which holds that the common good is best served in some instances by private citizens who are willing to defy a legal, but unjust or unwise, order.

This tradition stretches from the Boston Tea Party to the Underground Railroad, to the Americans who defied the McCarthy inquisitions and to the civil rights movement. It has called forth ordinary citizens, like Rosa Parks; government officials, like Daniel Ellsberg and Mark Felt; and statesmen, like Martin Luther King. Frequently, it falls to news organizations to uphold this tradition. As Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1972, "The press has a preferred position in our constitutional scheme, not to enable it to make money, not to set newsmen apart as a favored class, but to bring to fulfillment the public's right to know."

Critics point out that even presidents must bow to the Supreme Court. But presidents are agents of the government, sworn to enforce the law. Journalists are private citizens, and Ms. Miller's actions are faithful to the Constitution. She is defending the right of Americans to get vital information from news organizations that need not fear government retaliation - an imperative defended by the 49 states that recognize a reporter's right to protect sources.

A second reporter facing a possible jail term, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, agreed yesterday to testify before the grand jury. Last week, Time decided, over Mr. Cooper's protests, to release documents demanded by the judge that revealed his confidential sources. We were deeply disappointed by that decision.

We do not see how a newspaper, magazine or television station can support a reporter's decision to protect confidential sources even if the potential price is lost liberty, and then hand over the notes or documents that make the reporter's sacrifice meaningless. The point of this struggle is to make sure that people with critical information can feel confident that if they speak to a reporter on the condition of anonymity, their identities will be protected. No journalist's promise will be worth much if the employer that stands behind him or her is prepared to undercut such a vow of secrecy.

Protecting a Reporter's Sources

Most readers understand a reporter's need to guarantee confidentiality to a source. Before he went to jail, Mr. Farber told the court that if he gave up documents that revealed the names of the people he had promised anonymity, "I will have given notice that the nation's premier newspaper is no longer available to those men and women who would seek it out - or who would respond to it - to talk freely and without fear."

While The Times has gone to great lengths lately to make sure that the use of anonymous sources is limited, there is no way to eliminate them. The most important articles tend to be the ones that upset people in high places, and many could not be reported if those who risked their jobs or even their liberty to talk to reporters knew that they might be identified the next day. In the larger sense, revealing government wrongdoing advances the rule of law, especially at a time of increased government secrecy.

It is for these reasons that most states have shield laws that protect reporters' rights to conceal their sources. Those laws need to be reviewed and strengthened, even as members of Congress continue to work to pass a federal shield law. But at this moment, there is no statute that protects Judith Miller when she defies a federal trial judge's order to reveal who told her what about Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as an undercover C.I.A. operative.

Ms. Miller understands this perfectly, and she accepts the consequences with full respect for the court. We hope that her sacrifice will alert the nation to the need to protect the basic tools reporters use in doing their most critical work.

To be frank, this is far from an ideal case. We would not have wanted our reporter to give up her liberty over a situation whose details are so complicated and muddy. But history is very seldom kind enough to provide the ideal venue for a principled stand. Ms. Miller is going to jail over an article that she never wrote, yet she has been unwavering in her determination to protect the people with whom she had spoken on the promise of confidentiality.

The Plame Story

The case involves an article by the syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who revealed that Joseph Wilson, a retired career diplomat, was married to an undercover C.I.A. officer Mr. Novak identified by using her maiden name, Valerie Plame. Mr. Wilson had been asked by the C.I.A. to investigate whether Saddam Hussein in Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger that could be used for making nuclear weapons. Mr. Wilson found no evidence of that, and he later wrote an Op-Ed article for The Times saying he believed that the Bush administration had misrepresented the facts.

It seemed very possible that someone at the White House had told Mr. Novak about Ms. Plame to undermine Mr. Wilson's credibility and send a chilling signal to other officials who might be inclined to speak out against the administration's Iraq policy. At the time, this page said that if those were indeed the circumstances, the leak had been "an egregious abuse of power." We urged the Justice Department to investigate. But we warned then that the inquiry should not degenerate into an attempt to compel journalists to reveal their sources.

We mainly had Mr. Novak in mind then, but Mr. Novak remains both free and mum about what he has or has not told the grand jury looking into the leak. Like almost everyone, we are baffled by his public posture. All we know now is that Mr. Novak - who early on expressed the opinion that no journalists who bowed to court pressure to betray sources could hold up their heads in Washington - has offered no public support to the colleague who is going to jail while he remains at liberty.

Ms. Miller did not write an article about Ms. Plame, but the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, wants to know whether anyone in government told her about Mr. Wilson's wife and her secret job. The inquiry has been conducted with such secrecy that it is hard to know exactly what Mr. Fitzgerald thinks Ms. Miller can tell him, or what argument he offered to convince the court that his need to hear her testimony outweighs the First Amendment.

What we do know is that if Ms. Miller testifies, it may be immeasurably harder in the future to persuade a frightened government employee to talk about malfeasance in high places, or a worried worker to reveal corporate crimes. The shroud of secrecy thrown over this case by the prosecutor and the judge, an egregious denial of due process, only makes it more urgent to take a stand.

Mr. Fitzgerald drove that point home chillingly when he said the authorities "can't have 50,000 journalists" making decisions about whether to reveal sources' names and that the government had a right to impose its judgment. But that's not what the founders had in mind in writing the First Amendment. In 1971, our colleague James Reston cited James Madison's admonition about a free press in explaining why The Times had first defied the Nixon administration's demand to stop publishing the Pentagon Papers and then fought a court's order to cease publication. "Among those principles deemed sacred in America," Madison wrote, "among those sacred rights considered as forming the bulwark of their liberty, which the government contemplates with awful reverence and would approach only with the most cautious circumspection, there is no one of which the importance is more deeply impressed on the public mind than the liberty of the press."

Mr. Fitzgerald's attempts to interfere with the rights of a free press while refusing to disclose his reasons for doing so, when he can't even say whether a crime has been committed, have exhibited neither reverence nor cautious circumspection. It would compound the tragedy if his actions emboldened more prosecutors to trample on a free press.

Our Bottom Line

Responsible journalists recognize that press freedoms are not absolute and must be exercised responsibly. This newspaper will not, for example, print the details of American troop movements in advance of a battle, because publication would endanger lives and national security. But these limits cannot be dictated by the whim of a branch of government, especially behind a screen of secrecy.

Indeed, the founders warned against any attempt to have the government set limits on a free press, under any conditions. "However desirable those measures might be which might correct without enslaving the press, they have never yet been devised in America," Madison wrote.

Journalists talk about these issues a great deal, and they can seem abstract. The test comes when a colleague is being marched off to jail for doing nothing more than the job our readers expected of her, and of the rest of us. The Times has been in these fights before, beginning in 1857, when a journalist named J. W. Simonton wrote an editorial about bribery in Congress and was held in contempt by the House of Representatives for 19 days when he refused to reveal his sources. In the end, Mr. Simonton kept faith, and the corrupt congressmen resigned. All of our battles have not had equally happy endings. But each time, whether we win or we lose, we remain convinced that the public wins in the long run and that what is at stake is nothing less than our society's perpetual bottom line: the citizens control the government in a democracy.

We stand with Ms. Miller and thank her for taking on that fight for the rest of us.

Jayson Blair

Courtesy of Washington Post

Judith Miller - New York Time Article and Timeline

Writers Don Van Natta Jr., Adam Liptak and Clifford J. Levy cover the Judith Miller case beginning to end.


A Timeline of the events surrounding the Judith Miller case


The Global War on Plagiarism: Fighting the Pirates of the Press

By Roy Peter Clark (more by author)
Senior Scholar, Poynter Institute

I've been tracking plagiarism cases in journalism for more than 20 years now; my first take was a 1983 Washington Journalism Review article titled "The Unoriginal Sin."

Every editor I talked with back then had a serious plagiarism story to tell, with malefactors suffering all kinds of fates, from suicide to firing to, strangest of all, consignment to the copy desk.

Thank you, Mr. Fox, you are now in charge of the henhouse.

The journalism world is cratered with plagiarism cases, the latest coming at The Seattle Times, where a business columnist has resigned and a Poynter trouble-shooter, Bob Steele, has been flown in to conduct revival meetings.

The word plagiarism means "kidnap," and each word-snatch has its own peculiar characteristics. But some patterns repeat themselves time and again.

  1. Almost all cases of serious plagiarism are intentional.
  2. Serious plagiarism by adults is a moral flaw, not an ethical one.
  3. Not all cases of plagiarism are equal.
  4. With guidance, supervisors can exercise discretion and match punishments to the severity of the crime.
  5. There are special cases in journalism that require special attention, the articulation of standards and practices, and, yes, training.
  6. The Internet complicates all of this. Veteran journalists from Spain complained to me of younger reporters who practiced a kind of cut-and-paste journalism from the comfort of their computer chairs.

Suzy Hansen reports in The New York Times that 40 percent of college students admit to Internet plagiarism.

So what's an editor to do?


  1. Announce to your staff that plagiarism is a serious problem in all of journalism, and that you assume there will be cases in your newsroom.
  2. Insist that serious plagiarism is a firing offense.<>
  3. Develop some protocols around the gray areas listed above.
  4. Publish these, review them every year, make them part of any orientation of new staffers.
  5. Develop training sessions on "the tools of originality," with particular attention to note-taking, file-keeping, methods of attribution, and the Internet.
  6. Without creating a "rat squad," let staffers know that they can blow the whistle on malpractice in confidence.
  7. Train editors how to act on such complaints from both inside and outside the newsroom.
  8. Consult with a company about using computer technology to conduct random plagiarism checks on reporter's work.
  9. Pray.
  10. Pray.
  11. Pray.
  12. Pray.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article reported that Stephen Dunphy was fired by the Seattle Times. In fact, as Times editor Michael Fancher reported Sunday, he resigned.

Source: poynter.org