|CREDIBILITY IN QUESTION|
trust in the news media has been shaken by several recent scandals and
lapses of journalistic judgment. Two experts answer your questions about
specific cases of journalistic misdemeanors and how the news organizations
in general can improve their credibility.
Special Report: Credibility in Question
Camila of Washington, DC asks:
Do you think it's ethical for a working reporter to keep a blog in which that person writes about his/her own political and personal views about news events? Is that reporter a liability to his employer?
Jay Rosen responds:
I can certainly imagine many situations in which it would be a liability-and a risk. Witness the recent case of the Boston Globe technology reporter who expressed himself on politics, and got criticized for it. (Unfairly in my view.) I've said before that a blog is a little First Amendment machine. Hand one out, and you should expect free speech to happen.
However, if all we can see is "opinion" contaminating "news," we are going to be helpless to sort out the future in journalism, or understand the appeal of blogs.
Sometimes, opinion contaminates. Sometimes it animates news. We would be better off starting with a more neutral attitude, I think.
Michael Getler responds:
In general, I would think this is not a good idea for a reporter. On the other hand, if it is used to reveal how one thinks about journalism and issues, it could be useful. I think the great majority of reporters, certainly among the ones that I have known over many years, work hard at a commitment to fairness in their coverage, and at getting at the truth about what is happening regardless of their political leanings.
I think there is no gain for a reporter to have known and obvious political affiliations, nor for the news organization he or she works for.
But I think many people confuse political motivation with journalistic motivation. For example, pressing hard to find out why the administration was so wrong about weapons of mass destruction and other key reasons for invading Iraq does not mean one is anti-Bush or a Democrat. Nor was the pursuit of President Clinton's failings carried out by Republican journalists. These stories are carried out reporters who instinctively know how to follow a story. It is a legitimate journalistic issue, not a sign of their politics or bias.
Explaining such matters in a blog could be very instructive.