Copy Cat Journalists

By Casey Bukro

Here’s an interesting idea:

Journalists should stop mimicking what’s happening on the internet.

Poynter said the idea sprang from the ninth annual Kent State Ethics Workshop in September, which focused on the world of entertainment and how journalists cover it.

You get a pretty good idea that it can be an ethics imbroglio just by some of the topics: Privacy vs. adoration, stalking and paparazzi.

A workshop organizer, Jan Leach of Kent State’s School of Journalism, said they picked entertainment ethics “because there’s so much entertainment and celebrity journalism available in all media…..”

The news, she adds, “is often part truth and part rumor, ” but consumers might not be able to tell the difference. “There’s so much spin from publicity departments.”

And, it might be fair to say, journalists fall for it or go along with it.

It’s easy to cover and does not take much imagination. But how much wall-to-wall coverage does the public need about Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus?

Even while reporting the latest escapades of such human train-wrecks, TV announcers can be heard to say: “Why are we doing this again?” They admit to giving more publicity to people acting odd, because they want the publicity.

The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics encourages journalists to act independently and “avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”

Though it’s called entertainment, there doesn’t seem to be much entertaining about it. It’s more like voyeurism.

Here’s an idea for what could be an entertaining story: The funny behavior of men and women in business, commerce and industry.

When’s the last time you saw a funny story about business? It’s all so serious, and people who cover it take it so seriously. There must be some humor in it somewhere, even though economics is called the dismal science.

Corporate publicity departments work overtime to make their CEOs look almost god-like.

Another example of copy cat journalism.

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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