The Washington Post Flunks Integrity, Conflicts, and Trustworthiness

Newspaper...Heal Thyself!

The incidents of blatantly untrustworthy conduct by supposedly prestigious news organizations have become so numerous that they are almost no longer newsworthy themselves. Journalists failing their core ethical standards when maintaining them would be inconvenient? That’s not news. That’s the status quo.

Patrick B. Pexton, the Washington Posts’s ombudsman, had to write about the strange case of Jose Antonio Vargas, the celebrated journalist, once employed by the Post, who admitted last week that he was an illegal alien.  In particular, he had to write about 1) why a Post editor, Peter Perl, continued to employ Vargas and hid his immigration status for eight years after learning that he was in the country illegally and 2) why Vargas’s 4000 word piece about his deception (and the Post’s complicity in it) was killed by another Post editor, resulting in its being picked up and published by the New York Times. So the in-house ethics watchdog wrote about it, and concluded—nothing. 

Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli, who decided not to run Vargas’s story, ducked Pexton’s inquiries with a boilerplate “the paper doesn’t discuss internal news judgement”  response. “Fair enough,” Pexton writes. Fair enough? That is certainly not fair enough; no Post reporter would accept that kind of a non-answer answer from an elected official.

Thus the published report on the internal investigation by the Post’s independent journalism ethicist leaves us with these unavoidable conclusions, though Pexton does not have the boldness and honesty to state them clearly:

1. A Post journalist broke, and continued to break, U.S. immigration laws with the complicity of a Post editor.

2.What objectivity regarding illegal immigration issues and the immigration policy debate can the Post be trusted to maintain when its own management? None.

3. Rather than expose its own misconduct and dubious handling of the Vargas situation, the Post refused to publish the story.

4. If the Washington Post will not honestly and completely reveal facts that are embarrassing to its management, why should any reader trust the Post to report other facts, events and conduct that are detrimental to the Post management and staff’s own interests? No reader should.

5. Finally, if the Post management will not be candid with its own ombudsman about a series of ethics breaches, how serious is the Post about its integrity, objectivity and trustworthiness?

Not very.

32 thoughts on “The Washington Post Flunks Integrity, Conflicts, and Trustworthiness

  1. Clear and complete. I almost wish there was a ‘like’ button. I do wish there was a way I could subscribe to comments without posting. Am I blind, or is that impossible?

    • There is a like button that I could use, but I don’t, mainly because 1) A thumbs up/down response is really inadequate for most of these issues. 2) You would hit the don’t like button twice as much as the like button, and my feelings would be hurt.

  2. Since we’re talking about questionable decisions by journalists, have you heard about the latest Newsweek issue yet? The fake Diana Facebook page and the “what if” written by Newsweek editor (and Diana biographer) Tina Brown…what’s the world come to when a news magazine starts publishing fan fiction?

  3. I don’t care one whit about what an illegal alien has “contributed” to our society. Deport ’em. They’re breaking the law. And so, by the way, are their employers. The latter should be prosecuted as well.

  4. You raise some interesting questions, but the errors of the Post are so miniscule in comparison to all they do that’s right.

    I’m a reader and I have no reason not to trust the Post’s integrity and certainly am not on board “the media is a joke” argument. It sounds like this site is being run by wanna-be muckrakers who feel like targeting newspapers like the Washington Post is equivalent to the actual corruption out there.

    That’s a little ridiculous to claim the integrity of the Post is being shattered. One editor was complicit in keeping one person employed though undocumented. There’s a big difference between that and the whole newsroom.

    Also, they might have dislosed it to the ombudsman and he declined to share the story

    • WHAT? That’s a strange view of journalistic ethics. The Post does the easy stuff right…big deal. Can they be trusted to be honest with readers when there’s a cost? Clearly not. The ombudsman withheld information from readers? That’s not his job. Essentially, your argument is that you don’t care that the Post cheats, because its a good paper when it isn’t. Nixon was a good president whan he wasn’t lying, too. This is how institutions get away with being corrupt.

      • First of all, my main argument is not through my words, but the fact that I’m still going to buy the newspaper and I doubt that circulation numbers would be majorly affected if every single subscriber were required to read your web post. You can talk about ethics in a bubble all you want, but within the practical reality of the world, the Washington Post’s ethics are already higher than they really need to be from a business standpoint anyway.

        I don’t know much about you, the author of this blog, but I don’t entirely give a s— about your judgement of the Washington Post from a theoretical standpoint. Criticism like this is just malicious and purposeless unless you can convince me that you would be able to run the Washington Post newsroom, what I would imagine is a very very difficult task, any better than it’s currently being run.

        I’m not sure if you are aware of a blog for journalism ethics or just ethics in general, but let me give you a picture because I’m not sure you realize how ethical newspapers are and how little it benefits them from a profit-margin perspective to do so. The Washington Post style manual of guidelines is 200 pages. That’s 200 pages full of things you’re not aloud to do. The newspaper business is an industry that is forced to ignore most avenues of profit that are knocking at its door, which is especially troubling when people are losing their jobs and the public doesn’t place the proper market value on them. Oh yes, and it’s also trendy to hate the media and rattle on about how they’re doing their jobs wrong.

        I was just meeting with a manager of a chain of small newspapers who talked about having to do what you’ve gotta do to stay in business. That’s the nature of the times we’re in. I was once sent on a story to report on the opening of a new restaurant and noticed shortly into the interview that the restaurant had just purchased ad space in the newspaper.
        I interviewed for a PR firm that once said there was a newspaper they dealt with that hung up the phone on your pitches if you weren’t an advertiser. I just spoke with another newspaper editor someone else who thought that newspaper was ridiculous but also said that he gives no preferences towards coverage on who buys ad space but he also features ad buyers on his real estate profile.

        Those are the options: You’re options are usually: find some short cut to sell that ad space or goodbye, newspaper.

        You know what else: There are outlets out there (you might call them journalism) like TMZ or Gawker that pay people $50 for newstips. There’s even a newspaper that I know of indirectly which is the major paper for its town and the ethics are more relaxed there. An editor explained to me that the paper wasn’t owned by any media conglomerate but just one guy and he can do whatever he wants. And he’s profiting and his readers are still buying from him. Who are you or any other media critic to tell him he’s doing his job wrong? You can blog on here all you want about how “corrupt” he is but I doubt you’ll put him out of business. At the end of the day the community gets what it wants and so does the newspaper owner.

        In the meantime, The Washington Post does absolutely none of these things. They continue to operate their business unprofitably and lose jobs because they essentially try to satisfy anyone who could possibly have an issue with extremely rigid rules of truth, equity and fairness.

        Every decision that they make when fast-dwindling profit is on the line and they’re not aloud to take any shortcut to that profit is tough. All I can say, is you try running the Post any better.

        • What a spectacular set of rationalizations for unethical professional conduct! This comment outlines the formula whereby all professional ethics can be abandoned whenever expediency or convenience or self-interest makes doing so advantageous, with the ready excuse that “most of the time” the principles are followed. Of course, this approach abandons integrity (which you should look up) and ignores that fact that you cannot trust a professional who only abides by the rules “most of the time.”

          Maybe you are a politician. Or Eliot Spitzer. Or Bill Clinton. That might explain your comment, though not make it any less wrong-headed.

          First of all, my main argument is not through my words, but the fact that I’m still going to buy the newspaper and I doubt that circulation numbers would be majorly affected if every single subscriber were required to read your web post.

          So we should ignore unethical conduct when nobody cares about it. Good plan. Welcome to Hell.

          You can talk about ethics in a bubble all you want, but within the practical reality of the world, the Washington Post’s ethics are already higher than they really need to be from a business standpoint anyway.

          Great comment! Also true of Goldman Sachs. You call that a defense? Really?

          I don’t know much about you, the author of this blog, but I don’t entirely give a s— about your judgement of the Washington Post from a theoretical standpoint.

          If you don’t give a shit, than don’t send back a comment. Obviously you care enough to expose your ethical cluelessness in a critique. A dishonest comment.

          Criticism like this is just malicious and purposeless unless you can convince me that you would be able to run the Washington Post newsroom, what I would imagine is a very very difficult task, any better than it’s currently being run.

          That is a ridiculous test. I can and will point out that a police arrest was unfair, or that a plumber’s billing practice is dishonest, or that a drug company’s advertising is deceptive, and do so well and productive ly without knowing how to subdue a suspect, fix a pipe, or make a new drug. This is the classic, silly, desperate argument against all critics: “Can YOU act any better?” Laughable, lame, and an indictment of your own logic.

          I’m not sure if you are aware of a blog for journalism ethics or just ethics in general, but let me give you a picture because I’m not sure you realize how ethical newspapers are and how little it benefits them from a profit-margin perspective to do so.

          What? Newspapers are in the business of being credible and telling the truth. Conflicts of interest and cover-ups undermine both these objectives. If the business is not profitable, than redefine journalism as slanted, biases, self-serving facts manipulated to the benefit of the paper and its owners. Maybe that will sell better, but don’t do the latter and claim the former.

          The Washington Post style manual of guidelines is 200 pages. That’s 200 pages full of things you’re not allowed to do.

          And, in the case pf the illegal writer, the Post staff did them anyway. What good is a manual if you don’t follow it when following it is tough?

          The newspaper business is an industry that is forced to ignore most avenues of profit that are knocking at its door, which is especially troubling when people are losing their jobs and the public doesn’t place the proper market value on them.

          This is the business they choose to be in, and it requires trust. Don’t accept professional obligations and then argue that you shouldn’t be held to them because they are unprofitable or hard. The Post doesn’t let politicians, lawyers and doctors get away with such a self-serving excuse.

          Oh yes, and it’s also trendy to hate the media and rattle on about how they’re doing their jobs wrong.

          It’s not “trendy.” It is accurate and necessary. The traditional media is untrustworthy. The Post is more trustworthy than most. Not trustworthy enough.

          . I was just meeting with a manager of a chain of small newspapers who talked about having to do what you’ve gotta do to stay in business. That’s the nature of the times we’re in.

          Ah. Cheating and lying are more acceptible if they are what “you gotta do.” How about this: if you can’t do the job honestly and meet the ethical standards, don’t do it, and someone with values will come along who can. Of course, this only works if people care about things like integrity (did you look it up yet?) and honesty. That is, people unllike you.

          I was once sent on a story to report on the opening of a new restaurant and noticed shortly into the interview that the restaurant had just purchased ad space in the newspaper. I interviewed for a PR firm that once said there was a newspaper they dealt with that hung up the phone on your pitches if you weren’t an advertiser. I just spoke with another newspaper editor someone else who thought that newspaper was ridiculous but also said that he gives no preferences towards coverage on who buys ad space but he also features ad buyers on his real estate profile. Those are the options: Your options are usually: find some short cut to sell that ad space or goodbye, newspaper.

          Point? That you have to cheat to stay in business? There is no reason you can’t have an objective review of an ad-buying restaurant, as long as the review includes disclosue and the fact of the ad was not a factor in the review.

          You know what else: There are outlets out there (you might call them journalism) like TMZ or Gawker that pay people $50 for newstips.

          And they are trusted accordingly.

          There’s even a newspaper that I know of indirectly which is the major paper for its town and the ethics are more relaxed there. An editor explained to me that the paper wasn’t owned by any media conglomerate but just one guy and he can do whatever he wants. And he’s profiting and his readers are still buying from him. Who are you or any other media critic to tell him he’s doing his job wrong?

          Who am I? I’m an ethicist. And if the public decides, given some facts and guidance by me and others that this guy is doing his job unethically, then he’ll have to change, as he should without any pressure. William Randolph Hearst “did what he wanted” and profited for a long time. Eventually the yellow journalism standard was discredited by papers that established a higher standard—like the Post.

          You can blog on here all you want about how “corrupt” he is but I doubt you’ll put him out of business.

          I’m not trying to put him out of business. The public can decide if it wants to get its facts from trustworthy sources or not. But pretending to be trustworthy when you’re not…that’s disgraceful, and a professional breach. TMZ, for example, doesn’t aspire to high values. The Post does, and should be held to their stated standards.

          At the end of the day the community gets what it wants and so does the newspaper owner.

          Huh?

          In the meantime, The Washington Post does absolutely none of these things. They continue to operate their business unprofitably and lose jobs because they essentially try to satisfy anyone who could possibly have an issue with extremely rigid rules of truth, equity and fairness.

          Sure. Like helping an illegal alien on their payroll avoid his legal obligations and then killing a story about it to avoid accountability. If you say so, Horace.

          Every decision that they make when fast-dwindling profit is on the line and they’re not allowed to take any shortcut to that profit is tough.

          Please show me where the Post has been similarly sympathetic to other challenged businesses.

          All I can say, is you try running the Post any better.

          The “Love it or Leave it” logic…wow. Antithetical to self-evaluation, improvement, or accountability. Your whole comment is a classic.

    • I’m not sure whether you’re parodying Sarah Palin or agreeing with her but this is my point exactly. People just have the attitude of “Let’s just demonize the media because it’s trendy.” That’s why Jon Stewart is the new messiah for this generation: Because he makes snarky comments at the news. Is there any evidence that Stewart could run CNN any better than it’s currently being run?

      And yes, you will miss the media when it folds. Thomas Jefferson once said “I’d rather have a newspaper without democracy than a democracy without newspapers.” And newspapers don’t come free. The blogosphere or online outlets which will replace it will not be financially sustainable models which will mean that your news will be brought to you by amateurs who will not be able to devote all their time to bringing you the news because they won’t be paid for it and as a result they will get lazy and not be beholden to any ethical guidelines at all.

      If you value the things that the Washington Post fails to do (be entirely accurate, forthright, impartial 100% of the time) , you (the public) must properly appreciate how an outlet like the Washington Post is much more capable of reaching the standards of perfect you desire than its substitutes (i.e. the blosophere, Gawker, etc.) or you’ll be stuck with the lesser substitutes

      • Love it. You are the master of “love it or leave it” retorts. “We’re not perfect, but you’ll miss us when we’re gone!” “Could you do any better?”
        Professions that acknowledge that they aren’t perfect are right to do so—those who say that perfection isn’t worth striving for because it’s hard, expensive, or they can get away with lesser performance or people don’t care, are dangerous—and doomed. The newspapers have been killed by arrogance as much as anything: you are Exhibit ZZ.

        Crticizing is not “demonizing.” “Demonizing” is often an unethical term used to intimidate critics. Like the way you use it. Sarah Palin’s treatment by the media has been generally unfair, biased, sexist, and politically-driven. She is right to complain

        • I don’t wish to go on a tangent with Sarah Palin, I was writing about he was demonizing the media.

          I believe it is true that the public should be careful what it wishes for and that message board commenters are misguided in the very things they’re wishing for. If they want better accountability, dissolving the big newspapers and every practice they follow with their 200-page mannuals and turning it over to the blogosphere is going to result in disaster.

          Enjoying the discussion currently writing a response to your other post now

          • I think you should be careful when you accuse others of “demonizing”. This is what we on the Right have come to expect as a matter of course from the Left. I see no reason to condemn as “demonization” a criticism of a public service entity for failing to live up to not only its own avowed ethical standards, but the traditional ones of a profession that’s supposed to play a leading role in the maintenance of a free republic through its integrity. As those standards have fallen, the public criticiam has mounted… and rightfully so. Nor do I see where Sarah Palin or Jon Stewart come into it. Neither are journalists. Stewart (the messiah??) may have pretentions, but all he is is a stand up comic with an axe to grind.

            • I’m not right or left. Both the Washington Times and Washington Post face similar pressure and I’ll defend both organizations from people who don’t have a proper perspective on what it takes to do their jobs. I have no idea why you’re bringing in politics into this. The idea that reporters outside of the editorial pages are desperately trying to spread their agendas to an unsuspecting public is a notion I find ridiculous.

              “But the traditional ones of a profession that’s supposed to play a leading role in the maintenance of a free republic through its integrity.”

              What traditional ethics are you referring to? The OP said so himself, Hearst used to manufacture wars, and the circulation wars in Chicago in the 1920’s had papers doing stunts that wouldn’t fly today. Again, maybe what you’re holding up today’s media to is an idealized version. How can you be sure that the Washington Post or the New York Times of the 1960’s or 1970’s didn’t also have their own shortcuts they took?

              • Well, you know the answer to that last question, don’t you? They weren’t under as much economic pressure or competition, so they were more careful, and their ethical standards were higher in fact. Last year the Post was willing to sell access to reporters, until they got so much criticism for it. In 2008, the Times published a front page hit job on John McCain based on rumors only. Neither would have happened in the 60s or 70s.

              • I think we’re all aware that journalistic institutions in this country have had a checkered history insofar as ethics are concerned. No argument there. But there remains the point that, as in no time in history that I can recall, entire syndicates have not only blatantly ignored the basic strictures of their profession on a regular basis, but even co-operated to present a political ideology contrary to the principles of the very Republic they were supposedly tasked to defend.

                The weapon of defense is the truth- no matter how ugly or how bright. But when the truth becomes “relative” and when morality becomes sidelined for “expediency” to a political or financial motive, the entire system becomes corrupted. The infamous “yellow press” of the Hearst syndicate was (and remains!) a case in point. But this does not excuse it. Nor can the widespread usurpations of the public trust that now occur in colleague organizations be accepted as well. They must be pointed out for their unethical activities and denounced. From that, such groups must either reform themselves or fail in favor of those others who take their public trust seriously and are thereby worthy of existence.

                • What usurpations of public trust are you referring to. I don’t think either of you have any idea what you’re talking about.

                  This all sounds great in theory. I mean, honestly, it sounds like a great thing to say to hippies at a coffee shop in Portland if you want to fit into the crowd. It sounds great, but that doesn’t mean it’s true

                  But just pick up a newspaper any day. Are the stories falsely reported? are there lies in there? honestly, go run your own factcheck.

                  Again, the OP makes the point that he doesn’t have to run the newsroom better than the people currently doing so to comment on it, but I would expect a critic to at least be educated on these matters.

                  If you went into a newsroom, you would not see people plotting about how to impose some sort of political agenda on the people. I don’t think you’re even willing to accept that just maybe journalists aren’t as biased or bad as you thnk

                  • As a brief rejoinder, I’d suggest that “hippies at a coffee shop” would be better representative of what I’m talking about. Call it the Starbucks School of Journalism. As to my “qualifications” in offering criticism- that’s an old ploy used by self-proclaimed “professionals” to discourage any rebuke from the public. I’ve enountered it from media types across the spectrum- noteably from the Hollywood variety. I don’t need credentials in the editorial board room or the director’s chair to know rank corruption when I see it. An understanding of the workings is necessary only to better evaluate the mentality involved and the established patterns of business that provide for its continuity… and thereby the means to oppose it. When, for example, I was confronted with a work of child porn, I knew it for what it was. My subsequent researches provided valuable knowledge as to why and how it happened- and why it continues to. But I didn’t need that knowledge- valuable as it has proven- to morally evaluate what had been done. Nor do I here.

                  • Honestly, and I really mean this: if you know anything about a subject in any depth, newspaper stories about that subject are almost invariably wrong, distorted, slanted or incompetent. I speak about the things I know a lot about, and I am constantly shocked at how careless the reporting is. This makes me believe that I am foolish to trust the media’s reporting on topics I don’t know much about.

                    That doesn’t even touch on the bias issue, which is bad and getting worse. You see it in headlines; you see it in choice of placement of stories, you see it in choices of what stories to cover, in tone, in placement of facts within a story, in convenient omissions or the use of innuendo. . There are a lot of ways to lie, and outright falsehoods are the least common of them for the media, though you will see more of them on the broadcast news. Deceit, bias, selective reporting are the order of the day. I will give you this: the Post is better than almost any other newspaper in this respect, but no where near what it own ethics guidelines aspire to, or what readers have a right to.

                    The 2008 election should have ended any debate over this question. The Democratic presidential candidate had zero relevant management/ executive experience, yet the media harped on the lack of experience—though still superior—of the GOP Vice Presidential candidate. The Democratic vice -presidential candidate has been an absurd gaffe machine his whole career, and continued the pattern during the campaign, yet again, the media concentrated it criticism and ridicule on Palin’s misstatements. There is no excusing this, and I do not say this as any kind of fan of Palin. But she was the victim of outrageous partisan and sexist bias that served to misinform the electorate and abdicate the duty to inform. Now, shock of shocks, the President displays all the symptoms of a man ill-suited to executive leadership with no natural feel for power and an aversion to making decisions. These were all traits that were readily available to any responsible journalist willing to do his or her job, or an editor interested in investigating unpopular, inconvenient facts. I said at the time and I repeat, it was as disgraceful a display of awful journalistic ethics as I have ever seen. And it has gone straight downhill from there.

  5. I think I’ll just make this the Comment of the Day. Coming from a journalist, it confirms my belief about the arrogance and the ethical ignorance of the profession generally better than any single incident among the hundreds and hundreds that I’ve dealt with or observed. Thanks for that.

    • One last thing to keep in mind:
      I’m not “The media” and have never held a high-level job running or editing a newspaper. It’s just from observation over how difficult the job is from having been in newsrooms and in the industry in general.

      I’m just a freelance writer at the bottom of the barrell and I’ve written in old media (print) as well as new media (the web). I see the potential of new media and I stand to make a career out of either/or, but I do passionately think the public is misguided about the media and is shooting itself in the foot.

      • I’m surprised that it doesn’t bother you that the argument resembles that of the enablers here for Mubarak in Egypt. “Be careful what you wish for —what replaces him could be worse.” True, and true of the media too. It is a formula for “as bad as the public will tolerate” rather than “the best we can do.”

  6. Pingback: Comment of the Day: “The Washington Post Flunks Integrity, Conflicts, and Trustworthiness” | Ethics Alarms

  7. “If you don’t give a shit, than don’t send back a comment. Obviously you care enough to expose your ethical cluelessness in a critique. A dishonest comment.”

    OK, fair enough. I did enjoy your critique and cared about your opinion enough to share my own and am getting value out of this discussion or I wouldn’t be posting it.

    What I mean is I don’t find the opinions of a criticizing public of the media entirely valid if they lack an appreciation for the difficulties that running the media entails.

    You’re right: Not all sportswriters are professional athletes and not all film critics are filmmakers. However, I wouldn’t call you a very well-informed sportswriter (a critic of sorts) if you sloppily advocated in a column for extending the NFL preseason without properly understanding how much damage players sustain during the wear and tear of games.

    The general attitude people have today where everyone wants to be like Jon Stewart and revel in pointing out the ways in which the media is lame and deservedly dying without really understanding the inherent difficulties and challenges of the media industry. They also fail to differentiate between cable TV hosts and the strict editorial standards of the printed word.

    Because in your reply, you credited the Washington Post with being more trustworthy than other sources but still not perfect along with another of details, I can now better appreciate your nuanced and more subtle stance.

    Your initial post was filled with blanket accusations of “all media sucks.” and the other commenters were so disturbingly eager to join on the bandwagon, that I really didn’t have much hope for reasonable discussion at first. While you made a very intelligent response to me, your initial post is also very sloppy.

    1. A Post journalist broke, and continued to break, U.S. immigration laws with the complicity of a Post editor.
    Yes, that’s an issue of debate. The one editor doesn’t respresent the entirety of the Post. If the organization’s head found out, he would have been fired. Again, that’s the integrity of the organization at work
    I feel like holding an entire organization accountable for the actions of one editor concealing information that they didn’t know about is faulty ethics, wouldn’t you say?

    2.What objectivity regarding illegal immigration issues and the immigration policy debate can the Post be trusted to maintain when its own management? None.

    Again, that’s just a leap in logic. Granted, I might have been inflammatory in my response but in truth the energy required to wrap my finger around this slippery slope fallacy is pretty heavy.

    Under what basis are you assuming that anything has changed in the state of mind of every other reporter in the newsroom because of Vargas’ cheating the system? The worst criticisms I’ve read about the handling of the Vargas story were that Vargas himself couldn’t have honestly reported about immigration, but a) he’s no longer there and will no longer be hired by anyone in the industry and b) he’s not the rest of the newsroom

    3. Rather than expose its own misconduct and dubious handling of the Vargas situation, the Post refused to publish the story.

    Yes, for sound journalistic reasons. It was explained that they couldn’t verify the story. They were perfectly forthright about it in Sam Farhi’s piece.

    4. If the Washington Post will not honestly and completely reveal facts that are embarrassing to its management, why should any reader trust the Post to report other facts, events and conduct that are detrimental to the Post management and staff’s own interests? No reader should.

    There’s a difference between honestly revealing facts and honestly revealing facts to the point where you’re satisfied.
    Just because they withheld a direct explanation by the editor doesn’t mean they didn’t do everything else. Again, they were true to their stated policy which is that the editor isn’t required to comment.

    5. Finally, if the Post management will not be candid with its own ombudsman about a series of ethics breaches, how serious is the Post about its integrity, objectivity and trustworthiness?

    It’s possible that the editor in question talked to the ombudsmen and that the ombudsmen was satisfied with the editor’s reasonings. That doesn’t mean the editor has to divulge to tens of thousands of readers about an internal manner.

    Aside from Question 1, one relevant question you can ask is whether the editor should be punished in some way years after the fact.

    • My responses:

      1. A Post journalist broke, and continued to break, U.S. immigration laws with the complicity of a Post editor.
      Yes, that’s an issue of debate. The one editor doesn’t respresent the entirety of the Post. If the organization’s head found out, he would have been fired. Again, that’s the integrity of the organization at work
      I feel like holding an entire organization accountable for the actions of one editor concealing information that they didn’t know about is faulty ethics, wouldn’t you say?

      No, not at all. An officer’s or manager’s unethical or illegal conduct is in fact properly attributable to the whole organization, and if the organization fails to repudiate it or discipline the individual, then it ratifies the conduct.

      2.What objectivity regarding illegal immigration issues and the immigration policy debate can the Post be trusted to maintain when its own management? None.

      Again, that’s just a leap in logic. Granted, I might have been inflammatory in my response but in truth the energy required to wrap my finger around this slippery slope fallacy is pretty heavy.

      Under what basis are you assuming that anything has changed in the state of mind of every other reporter in the newsroom because of Vargas’ cheating the system? The worst criticisms I’ve read about the handling of the Vargas story were that Vargas himself couldn’t have honestly reported about immigration, but a) he’s no longer there and will no longer be hired by anyone in the industry and b) he’s not the rest of the newsroom.

      A newsroom that contains an illegal immigrant protected by management is fairly suspect of being biased on the issue. It’s called the apearance of impropriety. It is completely reasonable.

      3. Rather than expose its own misconduct and dubious handling of the Vargas situation, the Post refused to publish the story.

      Yes, for sound journalistic reasons. It was explained that they couldn’t verify the story. They were perfectly forthright about it in Sam Farhi’s piece.

      An unbelievable and disingenuous excuse.

      4. If the Washington Post will not honestly and completely reveal facts that are embarrassing to its management, why should any reader trust the Post to report other facts, events and conduct that are detrimental to the Post management and staff’s own interests? No reader should.

      There’s a difference between honestly revealing facts and honestly revealing facts to the point where you’re satisfied.
      Just because they withheld a direct explanation by the editor doesn’t mean they didn’t do everything else. Again, they were true to their stated policy which is that the editor isn’t required to comment.

      Which is a self-serving contradiction of their news reporting policies. You are just saying they did what they did, because this is what they do. That’s no defense.

      5. Finally, if the Post management will not be candid with its own ombudsman about a series of ethics breaches, how serious is the Post about its integrity, objectivity and trustworthiness?

      It’s possible that the editor in question talked to the ombudsmen and that the ombudsmen was satisfied with the editor’s reasonings. That doesn’t mean the editor has to divulge to tens of thousands of readers about an internal manner.

      It’s not an internal matter, because it has impact on the Post’s credibility.

      Aside from Question 1, one relevant question you can ask is whether the editor should be punished in some way years after the fact.

      Easy. Sure he should. So he hid his misconduct for years—so what? He’s still accountable. There’s no statute of limitations on ethics.

  8. to clarify what I mean by question 2: the most scathing reviews of the incident are whether Vargas is fit himself to report further on immigration or if he was ever fit to report on immigration stories.

    I was saying that even his most scathing critics haven’t stretched the accusation out to hold the newsroom accountable.

    Here’s another counterpoint to yours: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jun/27/washington-post-pressandpublishing?CMP=twt_gu

    thanks for commenting and i will take my leave now

    • That Guardian piece is astounding. That argument is persuasive to you? Liars lie—the argument that a significant lie in one sphere doesn’t indict credibility elsewhere is self-serving fiction—for liars. And the Government doesn’t “force” anyone to lie about their status. He could have told the truth—he chose to lie for personal gain.

    • Based on that article at least, I’d say you’re right. “The government forces illegal aliens to lie”…like the government forces escaped prisoners to hide, or deadbeat dads to skip town. Mean old government!

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