Tag Archives: “60 Minutes

Sean Penn Touts Experiential Journalism on ’60 Minutes’

60 Minutes

Charlie Rose on CBS’ s “60 Minutes” broadcast.

By Casey Bukro

Sean Penn told “60 Minutes”, the CBS television news magazine, that he was practicing “experiential journalism” when attempting to interview Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Penn admitted he failed. His article, based on an encounter with Guzman in a Mexican jungle and published in Rolling Stone magazine, was intended to spark a public discussion about U.S. policy on the war on drugs.

How could he succeed? When Penn actually had a chance to confront Guzman face to face, instead he asked Guzman if he has visited his mother and whether he knows Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar. These are not penetrating questions that could trigger public discourse.

What he did was not experiential journalism. He knows the phrase but he doesn’t know what it means.

American Journalism Review uses the phrase to describe “How Virtual Reality Could Depict News in 3D.” In this case, newsrooms attract young users with in-the-round video on the Oculus Rift gaming platform: “Strap them in vision-encompassing helmets and let them experience the news like a video game.”

A Nieman Journalism Lab report names experiential journalism as one of “The Five Es of Journalism in 2016.” Neiman Lab is a Harvard University project aimed at discovering where the news is headed in the Internet age.

“Journalism has always been about more than just the facts,” according to the report. “There is a place for informational news but also for experiences that immerse the audience in the narrative.”  It cites the New York Times’ “Snow Fall” feature, “an attempt at using words, graphics, video and interactivity to have readers feel the story.”

Continue reading Sean Penn Touts Experiential Journalism on ’60 Minutes’

The Steve Kroft Affair



By Casey Bukro

We here at Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists sometimes clash over what is ethical or not.

The Steve Kroft affair is the latest example.

The veteran “60 Minutes” correspondent admits he had a three-year fling with a New York City lawyer, though both are married.

“I had an extramarital affair that was a serious lapse of personal judgment and extremely hurtful to my wife and family, and for that I have nothing but regret,” Kroft said in a statement to the New York Post. Both the Post and the National Enquirer published salacious text messages between Kroft and his lover, proving once again that anything on the internet is not private.

A CBS spokesperson said “It’s a private matter.”

Soon after the scandal broke, an AdviceLine colleague wrote: “Are personal values/ matters the same as professional matters? Should I teach my students that I don’t care what they do in their personal lives as long as they make good ethical choices in their professional ones? Personally, this Kroft story does not interest me. His professional work does.”

Kroft is one of the most high-profile journalists in America. He has been a CBS newsman for 31 years, 26 of them as a correspondent with “60 Minutes,” which specializes in asking the high and mighty tough questions about their personal lives, their entanglements, their dalliances and the quality of their professional judgment.

Here’s what I say to my AdviceLine colleague: What people do in their personal lives reflects on their credibility and integrity. I don’t think you can separate personal and work lives that easily.

By your reasoning, we should have ignored Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, as we did with JFK and his affairs. Looking back on JFK, journalists are criticized now for turning a blind eye to his dalliances. Now we’re more inclined to think about accountability.

Kroft is a very public figure by virtue of his role on “60 Minutes.” Part of his job is exposing the conduct of public officials. I would buy your argument if he were not a public figure. That is why, in ethics, we draw the distinction between public and private individuals.

Also, there is the issue of blackmail. Anyone involved in something he or she does not want the public to know is subject to the possibility of blackmail and manipulation.

Tell your students that they have to be smart enough to recognize that ethical values apply to all facets of people’s lives, especially to public figures, and that they, themselves, become public figures when they become very visible journalists. Think Woodward and Bernstein.

That’s why, these days, we encourage publishers and editors to avoid becoming involved in civic organizations, a practice that once was common, and to a degree still is. There is the public perception that if a publisher is an official on the board of a civic organization, he will favor that organization and give it favorable publicity. He also is seen likely to keep bad information about the organization out of the news.

The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics warns journalists to avoid conflicts or interest, real or perceived.

All of this is in the realm of accountability, an issue we take more seriously these days. People with ethics issues should not be pointing fingers at others with ethics issues. “60 Minutes” sets very high standards and its correspondents should measure up to them.

Personally, I always thought my role as a journalist meant that I was forbidden from doing things others could do. When I covered finance, I avoided buying stock in companies I covered. I did not join organizations I covered. I did not take part in political campaigns.

You can argue that any American citizen is entitled to do those things, and you would be right. But I always believed that anything I did should be above reproach. Being a journalist was paramount. It is an honor, a privilege and a duty to be smart enough to avoid any activity that could tarnish my reputation, and the reputation of the journalism organization I worked for.

Too often, the public complains that the media gleefully write about the transgressions of politicians and others, while keeping silent about the transgressions of journalists. The “old boy” syndrome. They say we cover up for each other. It’s a double standard. We should report on the transgressions of journalists as vigorously as we do about the transgressions of others. It’s only fair.

Comments are welcome.

“60 Minutes” Trips on Truth

By Casey Bukro

“60 Minutes” built a towering reputation as the TV news magazine that gets it right, but now is apologizing for getting it wrong in its report about the terrorist attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Libyan port city of Benghazi.

Lara Logan, who reported the story, said it was a mistake to highlight a supposed eyewitness account of the attack by a security contractor who later was found to be lying about being at the scene of the attack, and seeing the body of U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens at a local hospital.

“We made a mistake, and that’s very disappointing for any journalist,” said Logan.

The mistake involves an interview with Dylan Davies, a security contractor whose firm worked for the U.S. government, who was identified by “60 Minutes” by his pseudonym, Morgan Jones. He gave Logan a dramatic account of his role in fighting the terrorists, even smashing a terrorist in the face with a rifle butt. Logan appeared to coach him in describing the encounter.

“It was a mistake to include him in our report. For that, we are very sorry,” she is quoted in a New York Times story.

Actually, Davies/Jones told FBI investigators and his employer that he never left his villa the night of the attack because it was too dangerous. He did not visit the attack scene until the next morning. The conflicting government report caused the “60 Minutes” report to unravel.

From a journalist’s point of view, one can wonder about the CBS report, admittedly in retrospect. Why was Davies allowed to use a fake name on camera? And was any attempt made to prove that Davies was at the attack scene or at the local hospital, as he alleged?

The Times reported that CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager called the Logan report “as big a mistake” as “60 Minutes” has made in its 45-year history, but that its televised apology would be its last word on the issue.

This is seen as a “defensive crouch” by a news organization with a hard-hitting reputation and little pity for those caught in its cross-hairs. Fager also is executive producer of “60 Minutes.”

Marvin Kalb, a former CBS news correspondent, said in Politico.com that an apology from CBS is not enough.

“What has CBS learned, if anything?” asks Kalb, a senior adviser to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Following the apologies, said Kalb, “perhaps CBS (and other networks, too) will engage in a wide-ranging, no-holds-barred self-analysis of its reporting standards, starting one hopes with the unholy alliance it has formed with book publishers pushing their hot exclusives,” he wrote.

Davies/Jones had a book deal with Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS’s parent corporation.

If an apology is all CBS News can muster, clearly it is not being as tough on itself as it is on others.

The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics encourages journalists to “abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.”

On the upside, “60 Minutes” admitted its mistake and apologized, a rarity in TV journalism.  SPJ says “admit mistakes and correct them promptly.” The admission phase is done; the correction remains to be seen.

Later, CBS announced that Logan and her producer were placed on leave of absence.

In a memo to staff, Fager wrote that he asked Logan and Max McClellan, the producer, to take a leave of absence, which they agreed to do.

“When faced with a such an error, we must use it as an opportunity to make our broadcast even stronger,” Fager wrote. “We are making adjustments at 60 Minutes to reduce the chances of it happening again.”

As executive producer, Fager said, “I am responsible for what gets on the air.”