Steve Geimann of the Society of Professional Journalists answers questions about journalism ethics.
David Gergen and James Fallows, author of "Breaking the News," discuss what Fallows describes as the deterioration of the Fourth Estate.
The NewsHour mourns the passing of John Chancellor, one of the most beloved journalists in America.
L.A. Times reporter David Shaw talks about cynicism in the media
Mary Lou Barker of Honolulu, HI J. Kelin's mistake was in the area of fiction-writing, so how can his action affect jounalism? His mistake was not to sign on publicly as author of a book of fiction.
George Brusak of Bronson, Michigan
Do I trust the press, (or lawyers or politicians)? A qualified yes. Long ago I learned the merit of the adage that says "Believe only half of what you see, and none of what you hear." I think that the adage is hperbole, but it does make the point that one should be cautious about accepting, 'whole hog', anything. One writer, (or lawyer or politician), won't bring down the system. In spite of the "Teapot Dome", "Watergate", and any number of other such aberations, I think that the system still works.
Paul Barber of Toronto, Ontario, Canada Journalists are outraged about one of their own telling a lie (Joe Klein - Primary Colors). But the news is full of lies told by others to journalists and passed on to the public. There are many examples. For instance all the documented cases of the Vietnam era which were revealed with the publication of the Pentagon papers. My question is: What difference does it make to the public what the source of the lie might be? Surely what is appropriate is to treat all information received through the media skeptically.
Larry Riffle of Boalsburg, PA Our Constitution defines the relationship between "We The People" and the government to which we have granted certain powers. I believe that the 3rd leg that keeps this arrangment standing is journalism.
Can our constitutional republic survive when we have people ranging from propagandists to outright liars dominating this vital role in our society?
The Klein episode had very little effect on my opinion of the media. I rarely encounter a mainstream newspaper, news magazine or newscast that doesn't contain lies and distortions far more dangerous than anything Joe Klein did.
Debra Bliss of Vallejo, CA
No question.... I just wanted to say that the OJ trial is what opened my eyes. I would watch the trial all day and then I would watch the news at night and scream at the TV, "That WASN'T what was said!!! How can you screw up something so easy as reading a transcript!!!"
It appears that the dramatic, the heartwrenching, the extreme, and the "scoop" is most important. Along with most in our society today, accuracy, honesty & integrity have gone out the window in favor of sesationalism and corporate dollars.
I remember watching the news and saying, "gee, it sure would be nice to know what the anchor is thinking."
Be careful what you wish for.... it just may come true.
Janet Butts of Atlanta, GA
Why don't journalist simply admit that they have a particular political viewpoint. If they could honestly designate their politcal affiliations, the public could take their statements in the proper context. If they could admit that they are editorialists and not unbiased reporters, I could give them more respect.
Journalist often speak of the demagogues on talk radio, but at least they are honest about their polical ideaology. While I often don't usually agree with thier point of view, I don't look for unbiased reporting of facts from them.
Frederick H. Bartlett of Mercerville, NJ Anyone who's been to a college or university in the past 20 or 30 years will tell you that objectivity is impossible; more recent graduates will tell you that even the attempt to be objective is a Bad Thing.
Few citizens today praise journalists for their objectivity.
In those areas where objectively right and wrong answers can easily be given, journalists are notably slipshod (see "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper", by Paulos).
What to do?
My recommendation is that journalists of every stripe listen to Rush Limbaugh; then, if they are appalled (and most will be), ask themselves the simple question, "Is what I do any different?"
I suspect that few journalists will be able to answer in the affirmative.
L. B. Hilsee of Carefree, Arizona 85377
This is not a question! It's one taxpayer's opinion, but shared by many in my town. Whatever the press says about Joe Klein is simply the "kettle calling the pot black." The public doesn't see that Joe Klein did anything wrong. Let me comment on the press.
There are two categories: Reporters and Columnmists
Reporters:As far as we are concerned they are simply NEWS-READERS and should be called just that.
- We don't care to know who they are
- We want them to report only what they see and hear
- We DO NOT WANT TO HEAR THEIR PERSONAL OPINIONS
- Most reporters can't pronounce words properly
- Most reporters are totally unfamiliar with world geography
- We read what they write; we like it, or we never read them again.
Ralph E. Berling of Yarmouth Port, Ma. 02675
Being new at computors and in particular, Netscape online, I'm not sure where to begin...However, I am very upset and distrustful of the bias in the main-stream press and TV.
Most of the reporting is so slanted to the left, they wouldn't know the truth if it came up and hit them in face. However, having said that, I must take exception to PBS. In my opinion, for the most part the public does get 'more for their money' with news reporting on PBS.
Tom Pyzdek of Lakeside, Arizona
Klein? He's a sacrificial lamb!
So Joe Klein lied to an organization that has been lying to us for years! The posturing of Newsweek is part of a smear to distract the public from the essential accuracy of Klein's portrayal. I remember not too long ago when Mr. Klein's book had journalists absolutely ga ga over its veracity. I guess it's too close to the election to let the truth go unchallenged.
Ralph Fough of Turner, OR
As the subject of sloppy journalism in 1969, my name and address appeared on the front page of the major area newspaper. Mine was one of a family group. The article was based on simple police records - nine citations were issued in a game law violation case.
I have no quarrel with the reporting of fact. However, the story was embellished with unsupported material which came from an opportunistic police officer looking to establish a reputation. The reporter swallowed it, hook, line, and sinker. It was easy, and it was front page material. He even published the name and address of two individuals three days prior to the issuance of the citations.
A small town reporter's dream, front page and network pickup. My relatives in Canada, Washington, and Idaho had a really good laugh. The hate mail which arrived soon after was not so funny.
The apology/retraction was buried at the lower left-hand corner of page 7, a far cry from the front page under the banner headline.
Do I trust the press? Yes, more than politicians assuredly. Do I trust the press whole-heartedly? No. Journalists are human, although they seem to prefer to ascribe super-human attibutes to themselves - such as infallibility.
As a father, as a teacher, as a man, I feel honor bound to acknowledge my mistakes and to work to correct them. I have not that "Journalism" subscribes to the same code.
I thank you for your time and the opportunity address a wound from 25 years ago.
Eric R. Blacker of Irvine, CA
This is a comment in response to the question asking, If Journalists are as hated like Lawyers and politicians.
I don't hate anybody. Dislike is a better description. However, I have come to distrust all of these groups.
The distrust of Politicians because they will tell you exactly you want to hear. By selectively telling the truth, concocting something deniable or using a subordinate. The reason I dislike Politicians is that at the center of all the spin is the purpose of self aggrandizement. We are better off with them than without them and we can vote them out of office if they don't listen to us.
I distrust Lawyers because it is their job to present the facts of a case in the most favorable way for their client. Selectively telling the truth is the rule. I dislike Lawyers because they seem to profit the most from the suffering or misfortune of others.
My distrust for Journalists is a more recent developement. There are always at least two sides to any story. If only one side is presented then it is selective truth telling. I dislike selective truth telling in journalism because it subverts the purpose of the fourth estate. You have to wonder who their client is or what their agenda is. I dislike Journalists most when they become news instead of reporting it. The superstar Journalist abuses the power of popular exposure granted for the purpose of maintaining an informed public.
The road back to respect and trust is to resist the temptation to blow your own horn. Be more like eyes and ears. Show opposite points of view. If both sides of a story are presented an observer is able to use their own judgement.
Thank you for listening to feedback and I think that the News Hour is top notch in the respect and trust department. Others could benefit greatly from the example and format.
Milton Boynes of Virginia Beach, VA
Do you trust the Press?
This isn't a question, but my answers to the questions asked on this subject. Are Reporters hated by the public like Lawyer and Politicians? Yes, especially T.V. news reporters. When has been employed (The News Media) to tell you the about events that may impact your life and distort the truth consistantly, after a while it goes beyond annoying. What does this mean for our Democracy? Well, the way the news is reported seems more like how it was done in the novel 1984 by G.Orwell. They set perceptions instead of telling you what really happen.
To regain public trust... simply tell the truth. Stop creating "bad guys", and stop trying to instill paranoia and fear of other types of people, places and things your not closely familiar with.
Bill Shugard of Berkeley Heights, NJ
It's almost funny watching various members of the media squealing about Joe Klein's book and lies. Look people, the media are already held in such low regard that this doesn't even show up on people's radar. No one was hurt, and no bad legislation was passed. Forget about it.
Terry Griffin of Hillsboro, OR In my opinion this question of trust is off the mark in the first place. I don't think the dislike of the press is rooted in mistrust. Instead I think it comes from a perception that many members of the press are just plain incompetent and that the press tends to focus on the wrong events and issues. This is most evident whenever the general public is given a chance to ask questions of political candidates in a town hall forum. The average quality of the questions asked in these forums is far higher than that of the questions asked in presidential press conferences.
David Galt of Seattle, Washington My feeling is that the majority of ethics violations come from conflicts of interest between the media source, be it NBC, the Seattle Times, or CNN, and their larger conglomerates. The CBS-tobacco story (that never was) comes to mind. What has arisen has been a hesitative independence, more and more moving towards corporate censorship. This problem can only get worse as the major corporations continue to consolidate. I know that the press dosn't exist in a vacuum and can never be absolutely independent, but do you see it getting better or getting worse, and more importantly: how can it get better?
Steven Kittredge of Coral Springs FL
I think reporters are quickly becoming as disrespected as lawyers and politicians. There is without a doubt a left leaning prejudice, on balance, with the networks and the wire services and the major newspapers. The only question is why. I don't think there is any conspiracy. I do think there is much to cozy a relationship between the Democrats and these reporters. The way the press treats the Republicans is not the issue. The issue is the media must treat the Democrats the same way. Too many reporters are connected either by marriage or old employment to the Democratic machine. It almost seems like the inside the beltway people (reporters and politicians) seem to think there is something really bad going on on the right that America needs to be protected from. Whatever it might be can't be talked about it seems, but the self appointed are going to protect us somewhat. Of course this is only speculation, but if true it's obviously not working well. If there is something and it's so bad lets hit it with sunlight and let the chips fall where they may.
Pete Zimmerman of San Antonio, TX
The press in an uproar over what Newsweek's Joe Klein did to conceal his identity is laugh. The press regularly covers issues with a pointed bais, which is a far more serious thing than trying to remain anonymous about writing a book. Get real! I don't know why Mr. Klein just didn't whip up a Mark Twain to avoid controversy.
Frank Kaufmann of New York, NY
The press like everything else has its good and its bad players. By and large the press is clearly untrustworthy.
Joe Klein is simply a small man without character or morals. Such people are everywhere to be found. Joe Klein is unremarkable except insofar as he so fully embodies the essntial tragedy of our time, namely the proliferation of public figures who lie, and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. A press beholden to commericial interests will grow ever worse in its trustworthiness. Furthermore a community that by and large lacks personal discipline, and a respectable personal morality will lack the abilty and the interest in reporting in ways other than that which enables and defends a largely immoral lifestyle.
Of course there are great news figures (such as those on this program) and many promising young and lesser know figures with enormous integrity and vision. My advice for the paragons on shows such as yours, and (if I recall the name of the show correctly) young shows like "Freedom Speaks," is to keep doing what you are doing. We love you and are grateful for your work. Don't wring your hands. The untrustworthy ones are probably to ones who are screaming the loudest about Joe Klein.
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