Exposing Fellow Journalists

By Casey Bukro

The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics urges journalists to “expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.”

The reason for that admonition is the time-honored practice by many journalists of looking the other way when one of their fellow journalists stumbles on ethics, although they are quick to criticize lapses by anyone else.

This is changing, as a story in Salon.com about Howard Kurtz moving to Fox News shows. Salon said that Fox News is “becoming the home of disgraced journalists…..”

Sounds a bit harsh. This commentary is not intended to pile on, but to point out that a willingness to discuss alleged transgressions by journalists is among the changes as journalism transforms itself, propelled in part by the digital revolution. Online journalists are less inclined to honor sacred cows.

Kurtz came pretty close to qualifying as a sacred cow. He was Washington bureau chief for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and commented on shortfalls in journalism on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” show. He left those posts after apologizing for errors and admitting to them on his own CNN show.

Give the guy credit for fessing up, and symbolizing a new day in journalism when good journalists point out bad journalism, or bad journalists. They should take their lumps like everyone else.

About cbukro

Casey Bukro was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 2008 for outstanding contributions to Chicago journalism, after a 45 year career with the Chicago Tribune. Bukro retired from the Tribune in 2007 as overnight editor. He had pioneered in environmental reporting and in 1970 became the first full-time environment specialist at a major metropolitan newspaper in the United States and covered major developments on that beat for 30 years. He won the newspaper’s highest editorial award in 1967 for a series on Great Lakes pollution. The Society of Professional Journalists awarded Bukro its highest honor, the Wells Key, in 1983 for writing that organization’s first code of ethics. He is a past president of SPJ’s national ethics committee and a past president of the Chicago Headline Club. Bukro graduated with bachelor and master degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In 1998, he received the Northwestern University Alumni Association’s alumni service award for 17 years of volunteer service to the university. He has lectured in environmental journalism and journalism ethics at Northwestern, the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Columbia College, Columbia University and others. Before joining the Tribune staff, Bukro worked at the former City News Bureau of Chicago and the Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Wis.

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