A Hung Ethics Jury On Fox’s Broadcast Of The Isis Burning Video

jordan-pilot

The burning ethics issue of the moment is in the field of broadcast journalism, and Ethics Alarms is obligated to weigh in.

Who is right, the pundits are asking: Fox News, for defiantly posting on its website the 22-minute video from the Islamic State terror group that shows Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned to death, or all the other U.S. news organizations that have refused to do so?

Fox’s decision has been criticized by its own media ethics watchdog, Howard Kurtz, as excessive and unnecessary, and by anti-terrorism experts, who unanimously say that this plays into the ISIS strategy. Malcolm Nance of the Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideology said the Fox was “literally – literally – working for al-Qaida and Isis’s media arm. They might as well start sending them royalty checks.”

Here are the Ethics Alarms observations on the controversy. The short version: I doubt everyone’s motives here, and nobody on any side of the journalism ethics debate is consistent or trustworthy. Unlike me.

1. Here are the relevant tenets of the Code of Conduct of the Society of Professional Journalists. Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month (Or Eternity?), “Jackie’s” UVA Gang Rape Ethics Train Wreck Division: Melissa McEwan

Melissa McEwan's profile photo. I'm not going to say a thing. No, really. Not a thing.

Melissa McEwan’s profile photo. I’m not going to say a thing. No, really. Not a thing.

“I can’t state this more emphatically: If Jackie’s story is partially or wholly untrue, it doesn’t validate the reasons for disbelieving her.”

Melissa McEwan,  feminist proprietor of @Shakestweetz, an-all tweet blog, responding to the meltdown of the Rolling Stone story accusing a University of Virginia fraternity of gang rape.

Look, I’m not going to insult you by explaining what’s wrong with the assertion that those accusing others of horrific crimes shouldn’t be held to strict standards of credibility.

What is more significant than McEwan or her tweet is that this frightening and dangerous state of denial is moving from the status of self-evidently insane to acceptable. As I suggested in the previous post about the Rolling Stone retraction of its explosive story by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the Ferguson demonstrators, the “Hands up!” protestors, the Congressional Black Caucus, and  pundits like Eugene Robinosn who are still arguing that Officer Wilson should be indicted are doing essentially the same thing. Having decided that the Ferguson narrative pressed by civil rights activists communicated a deep truth about America, they refuse to accept that it was false even in the face of overwhelming evidence because they are intellectually and emotionally committed to that “truth.”

The tweet also forces me to upgrade the Rolling Stone fiasco to Ethics Train Wreck status. Continue reading

The News Media Giveth, The News Media Taketh Away…Now If Only We Could Trust Its Motives

Today, Johnny's old quiz show would have to be re-titled, "Who CAN You Trust?"

Today, Johnny’s old quiz show would have to be re-titled, “Who CAN You Trust?”

When the remains of hundreds of children were found in what appeared to be a mass grave under an Irish orphanage, another Catholic Church scandal seemed to be rising. Last week, the Associated Press, which broke the story, released this amazing “correction”:

DUBLIN (AP) — In stories published June 3 and June 8 about young children buried in unmarked graves after dying at a former Irish orphanage for the children of unwed mothers, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the children had not received Roman Catholic baptisms; documents show that many children at the orphanage were baptized. The AP also incorrectly reported that Catholic teaching at the time was to deny baptism and Christian burial to the children of unwed mothers; although that may have occurred in practice at times it was not church teaching. In addition, in the June 3 story, the AP quoted a researcher who said she believed that most of the remains of children who died there were interred in a disused septic tank; the researcher has since clarified that without excavation and forensic analysis it is impossible to know how many sets of remains the tank contains, if any. The June 3 story also contained an incorrect reference to the year that the orphanage opened; it was 1925, not 1926.

Or, to summarize, “Never mind. We rushed this story onto the newswires because of  preexisting biases of our reporters and editors, and breached the basic fact checking standards of our “profession” because, come on, only saps do that stuff any more. Sorry if this gave Catholic-bashers and anti-religion zealots false ammunition—we’ll work on digging up more dirt that will stand up to scrutiny. Besides, most people who saw the original story won’t see this correction, so it’s no big deal.”

How can we trust a news organization that could misrepresent a story this badly? We can’t, that’s all, and it isn’t just the Associated Press. All aspects of the news media have abandoned any pretense of objectivity, fair reporting and professionalism. Even when they do something right, one has to wonder why….for  they might not really be doing it ethically after all, no matter how it appears.

Case Study #1: Faking Hillary’s “town hall” Continue reading

The Loathsome Ed Schultz

Ed-schultz-MSNBC

It is not the first time, but MSNBC’s ugliest Angry Left spokesman just completed a cycle of conduct demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is deceptive, dishonest, cowardly, and incompetent—in short, loathsome. This is Ed Schultz, the most unethical of the stable of unethical anchors and commentators intentionally assembled by MSNBC—you could not possible get such an awful group by accident—for reasons best known to its chief, Phil Griffin. Having left-leaning views doesn’t make one loathsome by itself (no matter what Mark Levin says), but I do wonder what to make of fans of the likes of Martin Bashir, Keith Olbermann, Alec Baldwin  (all of whom became so openly loathsome that even MSNBC had to jettison them), Melissa Harris-Perry, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell, Al Sharpton and especially Schultz. A viewer admiring an unambiguous jerk on the level of Ed Schultz because he applies his jerk-ness in support of the viewer’s favorite ideology is itself a strong indication of flawed character. In the matter of unethical pundits, it doesn’t take one to know one, but it takes one to tolerate one. If a job applicant tells me she’s never misses the Ed Show, I’m not trusting her with the combination to the safe, I’ll promise you that.

Ed’s moment of self-revelation came as a result of some nakedly partisan Obamacare cheerleading in December. Ed then crowed,

“I’m going to make a prediction tonight. It`s going to hit 5 million by March 1st. That’s right. Five million people signed up by March 1st. Get your tapes rolling at home, folks, because it’s going to be a big “I told you so.”

Well, Ed was wrong, and did not get his “big ‘I told you so.'” But because the man has the maturity of an 11-year-old and the integrity of Newt Gingrich, he couldn’t level with his audience about the fact that his prognostication didn’t pan out. When his March 1st deadline came and went, Ed got into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and changed the past, saying on March 12 as the sign-ups languished well short of his prediction:

“Well, I predicted five million people are going to sign up by the end of this month. We`re closing on it on that number.”

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Glenn Greenwald

“Every journalist has an agenda. We’re on MSNBC now where close to 24 hours a day the agenda of President Obama and the Democratic Party are promoted, defended, glorified. The agenda of the Republican Party is undermined. That doesn’t mean that the people who appear on MSNBC aren’t journalists. They are.”

—-Libertarian blogger, pundit and activist Glenn Greenwald, defending himself in an MSNBC interview against allegations that he has become a “spokesman” for fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Journalism!

Journalism!

Remember, this is an ethics quote, not necessarily one that expresses an ethical point of view. With that caveat, I find it fascinating in many respects:
  • Greenwald is technically correct: journalists who use  their position to distort the news, express their biases and serve as advocates rather than objective critics, as most of the journalists do on MSNBC (and the way many too many journalists do elsewhere) are still journalists. They are unethical and unprofessional journalists. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Eric Wemple

Talk about ethics blindness.

Find that loose screw, Eric, and then tell Spike where it is...

On his Washington Post blog, Eric Wemple gushes like Old Faithful about sweet, contrite, courageous Spike Lee, who appropriately apologized (and paid an undisclosed sum) to the Florida couple whose address he had accidentally tweeted to help get George Zimmerman harassed, attacked or killed—that being his clear intent by trying to send Zimmerman’s address to the world, or more specifically, the New Black Panthers’ vigilantes. Wemple was blown away by Spike’s willingness to accept responsibility for his boneheadedness and admit he was wrong:

“Yet his reaction to the mishap rehabilitates the good name of an honest apology. Lee used no qualifiers, no minimizers, no excuses — and no ‘I am sorry if anyone took offense to my actions.’ Just plain regret and shame. Score a victory for the apology.”

So “I’m sorry I nearly got you killed; honest, I was trying to get that other guy killed!” is an impressive apology, is it? Continue reading