Journalism ethics concern issues such as:
- conflicts of interest,
- right of response, and
Two of the most infamous ethical cases involved Janet Cooke and Jayson Blair.
Cooke, of The Washington Post, was found to have fabricated a child heroin addict. She later said the child was a composite.
Blair, of The New York Times, was found to have fabricated and plagiarized many articles. The case led to the resignation of The Times' editor, Howell Raines.
Cooke and Blair are black. Views vary as to what role, if any, race might have played in these cases.
As of 2005, more recent cases have involved:
- Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press
- Jeff Gannon
- Jack Kelley of USA Today
- Dan Rather of CBS News
- video news releases
Especially when considered collectively, a number of journalism scandals suggest systemic problems, faults other than those of the individual journalist at the center.
Any such faults do not excuse those journalists' conduct, but may have enabled it or worse.
Albom, Kelley, Rather and others have been considered "stars." This might have led to a light hand by those who should have been supervising them and checking their work.
Also, some people who may have raised questions about their work apparently weren't listened to enough by management.
Albom's case is especially noteworthy. He wrote that two people were at a basketball game before it happened. They did not actually attend the game.
Althought journalists sometimes prepare reports of an event before it happens, the basic standard is to hold that material until the event actually takes place and to go to the event to at least verify that it does, indeed, happen as reported.
That standard was not adhered to in Albom's case. The column at issue was printed before the game took place. So editors should have been aware of the problem.
- Jimmy's World: How a Copy Editor Might Have Averted Disaster, report by Laurie Phillips on workshop given by William G. Connolly
- Mitch Albom and Journalism’s Second Dirtiest Little Secret, from Rathergate.com
Digital cameras and photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop enable more opportunity to manipulate photos. This has become especially common when it comes to celebrity pictures. (cite: Martha Stewart, March 2005)
Here are key statements from Paragraph 4 of the National Press Photographers Association ethics code:
"In documentary photojournalism, it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way (electronically or in the darkroom) that deceives the public. We believe the guidelines for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria for judging what may be done electronically to a photograph."
The reference to "documentary photojournalism" is apparently intended to differentiate itself from photo illustration.
Whether a photo illustration is acceptable can hinge on whether it is obvious that the image is not accurate and the context in which it is presented.
- New York Newsday front cover, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Olympic figure skaters pasted to appear in the same scene
- Newsweek and Time magazine covers, O.J. Simpson case. Newsweek runs the raw police mug short and Time runs a darkened "photo illustration" of the accused sports star. Even the police "plate" numbers were manipulated in the Time photo.
- National Geographic, moving an Egyption pyramid on its cover shot to fit the vertical orientation.
- Newsweek, and Martha Stewart. On her losing weight in prison, pasted her head onto the body of another person, and used on front cover of the magazine.
- Slate article, by Jack Shafer, March 16, 2005
- washingtonpost.com article by Dan Froomkin, March 18, 2005
- About off-the record background briefings in Washington
Conflicts of interest
- Conflicts of Interest Checklist from the Project for Excellence in Journalism Project for Excellence in Journalism
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