Muzzled scientists, stifled media: New restrictions on speaking directly to government scientists about the coronavirus are dangerous, writes Margaret Sullivan.
“We’re now at a moment when experts must be free to share their knowledge and front-line workers must be free to tell their stories without being muzzled or threatened — and certainly without being fired,” she writes. Lives depend on it.
Back in 1972, a Harris poll found that only 18 percent of the public had confidence in the print media; television ranked lower.
Garbage collectors scored higher in public confidence.
As a reporter for the Chicago Tribune at the time, I thought that was shameful, and not only for journalism and journalists.
That got me started on a lifelong mission to make the news media more trustworthy, and to earn public confidence in the belief that factual information is the lifeblood of a self-governing democracy.
You’d think you were on the side of the angels if you spent much of your life campaigning for journalism ethics. But you need more than angels to make much headway in getting the public’s respect and the cooperation of journalists, some of whom consider journalism ethics an oxymoron. A contradiction in terms.
The coronavirus batted the 2020 major league baseball season into limbo, but stories about baseball never get old.
Here’s one about the Chicago Cubs, a seriously maligned baseball fan and journalism ethics. Like many classic tales, it’s told, retold and people argue about the details in their favorite watering holes. Sometimes the story gets better each time it’s told.
It boils down to this: Was it ethical to name a baseball fan who deflected a foul ball, possibly costing the Chicago Cubs a trip to the World Series? This question has become a staple in some journalism ethics classes. I was reminded of that when a student named Maddie contacted the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists, asking if news organizations violated the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics by naming that hapless fan.
Speaking ill of the dead: A backlash against Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez for mentioning the Kobe Bryant rape case “steams from the ancient wisdom that urged folks not to speak ill of the dead,” writes Erik Wemple.
“A fine rule for everyone except for historians and journalists….,” he writes.
Shaky anonymous sources: Journalists in the cyber age should shun discredited past practices like anonymous sources and off-the-record backgrounders, which damage public trust. From the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists archives.