Tag Archives: journalism ethics

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?” (2)

rape-on-campus

 

I still can’t sleep.

This is the second Comment of the Day on this October 18 post, a surprise one for Pennagain, since I didn’t even flag it at the time. Again, I’m sorry. I don’t know what was up in October; it also ended with the worst traffic here of any week for more than two years. Obviously, it was a protest over my dilatory posting of the fine work by my commenters.

This one is a triple COTD, made up of three by Penn, who properly raised the specter of Samantha Erdly in the context of hoax research. Erdley is the Rolling Stone journalist who inflicted the “Jackie” tale of an imaginary gang rape at the University of Virginia, an earlier assault of truth and due process by the “believe all women” crowd. (Ethics Alarms covered the episode in a series of posts.). I just re-read Pennagain’s comments, made in a discussion with Alizia Tyler, who earns an assist. Excellent observations, and a valuable assist in making sure this journalistic outrage is never slipped down the memory hole, as so many would love it to be.

Here is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?:

As far as hoax articles appearing in either reputable journals or popular publications (rarely the same thing), if I weren’t an atheist, I would damn them all to hell. What I have in mind as an example that should need no further elucidation here is the piece knowingly published by Rolling Stone that included the false rape stories and statistics responsible for poisoning much of a culture, not to mention its politics….

“In November 2016, a federal court jury found Samantha Erdely was liable for defamation with actual malice” and that “Erdely and Rolling Stone failed to engage in “basic, even routine journalistic practice”

Her background reveals a start in college, when her colleague Stephen Glass ‘threw a righteous fit’ after she and a another student “concocted a funny and obviously made-up travel story” for the school magazine.” [Glass, you may not know, later became nationally notorious for inventing false stories published as factual journalism in the highly respected The New Republic, seriously harming its reputation.] Erdely was obviously already toxic before she left school. If you’re curious, her Wikipedia bio contains descriptions of six other major rape stories she invented out of whole cloth and used to smear real people and institutions, articles that in at least two cases went up for major journalism awards. As a self-appointed expert in rape and bullying, her work went into GQ, The New Yorker, Mother Jones, Glamour, Men’s Health, Philadelphia, among other lesser magazines. She was believed. The more she got away with, the greater the lies she invented … until, after twenty wonderful years of conning millions of people, she got over-confident and lazy, and plagiarized a previous article of her own. Until someone finally noticed that the Rolling Stone piece bore too many similarities to another one to be coincidental.

For twenty years, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, Seattle to Florida, she built a reputation for being the go-to journalist on the subject of rape. No one doubted her. Witnesses later spoke out using her writing as statistical evidence — women (and so many men who had been falsely accused) and feminists in particular — had absorbed every precious word – even against the evidence of their own knowledge and experience in the times and places Erdely was writing about.

A month ago, September 21, 2018, Rolling Stone was also found “liable for defamation.” It was noted in the case against Erdely that the magazine hadn’t been doing too well before they glommed onto that gem of Samantha, aka “Jackie,” the fictional rapee.

Last week’s headline: WaPo Reporter Is Tired of Being Reminded He Fell for Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Hate Hoax So Badly He Called for Burning Down UVA Frat Houses

I now amend my description of the poisonous piece: It is a “hate hoax.”

No, Alizia, poisons do not, in general, lead to death. They lead to minor discomfort in some, and major permanent damage in others; some knock you on your ass right away, and some creep insidiously into your brain over months or years. The public remembers things they read and hear. They (I won’t say “we” because I became skeptical reader at the age of 12 after a defamatory article was published in a local newspaper concerning a friend of my family concerning something that happened while I was present and knew to be a lie. I had been visiting one of their children, a classmate, at the time the incident took place, or rather, didn’t take place. My testimony was taken down, along with his, not discounted, but the editor of the paper would not print a retraction because, he said, “we don’t want to confuse our readers; they expect the truth, and that is what we give them.” Our parents wanted that in writing; naturally, he refused.

I am convinced that what is presented in a plausible manner from an authoritative source (which could be the 10 o’clock news or a magazine with a reputation for having its journalistic thumb on the pulse of young America) is frequently taken in without the auditor, viewer or reader later recalling the source. If they didn’t question it in the first place, they not only don’t question it later, but, when challenged, they will deny or dismiss any correction out of sheer embarrassment, egotism, mental laziness or, in the case under discussion, because they want to believe it.

As has been pointed out in Ethics Alarms before, the left, on the whole, has taken the anomalous position of being at once both victim and dictator. Thus, the concept of a Rape Culture is heaven for them: they are, collectively, the injured parties … and the ones who injure, including any who are capable of doing injury, are now at their mercy — via 30-year-old wisps of memory, anonymous join-the-conga-line #MeToo-ers, a casual touch on the shoulder, or a dirty-dirty word in their ears. They feed on lies more than on facts – the truths are painful, but the lies are more … emotional, memorable, dramatic, arousing . . . . They need to feed the addiction even when they know it is poison…

The fact in this matter is that Erdely, falsely or idiotically or crazily or not, believed she was doing something fine and high-minded “for women,” and to alert a deaf public (and via that route influence authorities) that there was “a rape problem” that needed to be addressed. In her mind, the ruining of a single man (or a whole college fraternity) was insignificant in terms of getting her message “out there.”

In other words, her cover (if you will) was in presenting these gross exaggerations as hoaxes. I may have taken you in the wrong direction by quoting the court decisions concerning malicious intent. The articles undoubtedly did “malicious” damage. So where am I? What Erdely believed (and apparently still does) has been shown to be shared by much of the public touched by it — including a proportion of men who don’t understand they are simply seeing themselves as heroic exceptions, or else thinking they are disguising themselves to live in the midst of an Amazonian tribe that wants to cut their balls off (that was an irrelevant side-bar, sorry, I do that a lot, letting off steam). Here’s what happens when someone with a cause and a vague concept of how bad the situation is gets hold of what she thinks are solid statistics, intended as a righteous hoax: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/12/06/msnbc_panelist_we_live_in_a_culture_that_hates_women.html

I rest my case.

7 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Politico’s Matt Latimer

Wait—there are idiots out there who think the news media tilts right??

“How have we reached a point in this country when nearly half the voters of a U.S. state so mistrust, and even revile, major media outlets that they are willing to brush aside credible evidence and elect an accused sexual predator simply out of spite? How have we reached a point where a president of the United States can just declare ‘fake’ news he doesn’t like—and largely get away with it?”

—Politico writer Matt Latimer, in his recent post blaming the news media for the increasingly likely election of the objectively terrible Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate. (Lattimer does not give proper credit to the wave of accusations of sexual misconduct against Democratic elected officials, Hillary Clinton donors, left-leaning journalists, NPR executives, and Hollywood Trump-Haters.)

Latimer is far, far too mild in describing the answer to his question, but he is correct. The mainstream news media has been so arrogantly, blatantly, unethically and unprofessionally partisan and biased for more than a decade that it has forfeited any claim to be trusted or believed by anyone who does not ascribe to the political and ideological agendas of those who most journalists have decided it is their duty to promote, as opposed to their real duty, which is to practice objective, fair and competent journalism.

Ethics Alarms has documented this disastrous development, which naturally was denied by both journalists themselves and those who benefited most directly from their biases . I also stated exactly what would be the inevitable result of the “free press” becoming , instead of the public’s source of essential information about their nation and its government, a partisan tool of manipulation and deception. The result is an ignorant, cynical, distrustful public. The result is malfunctioning democracy. The result is elected officials of warped character and rotten ethics, who are at risk to betray the public trust for their own gain. The result is a dangerously divided society that acquires its information from the sources that signal that they share or support tribal biases.

The result is Clinton, Reid, McConnell, Pelosi, Pence, Waters, Bannon, Trump, and Roy Moore.

A fool could see it, except so many fools would not. Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

Ethics Dunce: The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

Is the body of Charlie Rose’s work as a journalist less impressive, valuable, expert, enlightening and professional because we have learned that he is an abusive, sexist, gross, harassing pig? Of course not.

That being the case, why is The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication revoking the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism it bestowed on him in 2015? Let’s have the school’s explanation, shall we?

In the words of Dean Christopher Callahan:

We give the award each year based on the knowledge we have of a recipient at that time. When new information about a recipient surfaces, the question we ask is not whether the award would be given again with a new set of facts, but whether the transgressions are so egregious that they demand nothing less than a reversal of history.

I believe Mr. Rose’s actions of sexual misconduct reported by The Washington Post and other media outlets, which are largely unrefuted, rise to that level. The damage caused by Mr. Rose’s actions extends far beyond the news organizations for which he worked. The actions victimized young women much like those who make up the overwhelming majority of Cronkite students – young women who deserve to enter workplaces that reward them for their hard work, intelligence and creativity and where they do not have to fear for their safety or dignity. In rescinding this award, we hope to send an unequivocal message that what Mr. Rose did is unacceptable, and that such behavior – far too common in not just media companies but many organizations – must stop.

So now you know why. The school, and its dean, and everyone else involved in this decision, is craven, hell-bent on virtue-signalling, bereft of integrity, hypocritical, and intellectually dishonest. The school has never withdrawn an award or honor: are we really supposed to believe that there is an established procedure for considering whether or not one should be revoked in an instance of “new information” that has nothing whatsoever to do with the reason the honor was bestowed? Rose’s shame hardly did any lasting harm to the news organizations he worked for beyond the inconvenience of replacing him. He discriminated against women? Being the biggest cheese in William Paley’s all-male news room, Walter Cronkite’s treatment of women during the “Mad Men” error probably wouldn’t pass muster today, though I can’t picture Uncle Walter parading naked in front of female colleagues. (Fortunately I can’t picture Charlie doing that either). If Walter’s Juanita Broaddrick, reading about the slap-down of Rose, comes out with a credible accusation against the icon, will the Arizona State-based institution change its name to the Dan Rather sch…no, it can’t do that. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Professions, Workplace

Ethics Dunce: Donna Brazile, But Not For The All The Obvious Reasons…

“Now, it’s my understanding that as a CNN contributor, you won’t make me follow any of that ethics crap, right, Jake?”

In her new book, “Hacks: The Insider Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House,” Suddenly Ethical Donna Brazile takes a moment  to slam Jake Tapper because he harshly criticized her after a leak reveealed that she had used her CNN position to procure debate question and pass them along under the table to Hillary. (Of course, if Clinton had any integrity, she would have refused—what am I SAYING?).

She wrote,

“The next day, even Jake Tapper took a swing at me, calling me unethical and ‘journalistically horrifying’ during a radio interview with WMAL even though I worked for CNN as a commentator not a journalist.When I called him on this, he did not apologize. His attack on me was really about him. He wrote in an email, ‘I don’t know what happened here except it undermines the integrity of my work and CNN … you have to know how betrayed we all feel.”

OH! Donna was a contributor, not a journalist! That changes everything! So as an individual who was contributing to a journalism product, as well as paid to do so, and being relied upon by journalists in a journalism-supplying entity to inform their audience honestly regarding what journalism covers by definition, Brazile as a paid contributor should not have been expected  not required to tell the truth, be fair, maintain standards of integrity, state her biases and conflicts up front, or indeed engage in ethical conduct at all!

Is that the new definition of what “contributor” means? Boy, I think CNN needs to clarify this; I always assumed that if a network employed a “contributor,” that individual was being presented as someone who would be held to the same standards of professionalism as other on-screen employees. Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Workplace

Ethical Quote Of The Week: Ann Althouse

“Hey, journalist — you call yourself a “journalist” — how about not being on any side? Have you completely forgotten that idea? Sad about your camera, but what about your ethics? Did somebody grab them too and smash them on the pavement? Or is it still possible to scrounge back somewhere in your head and find them?”

—-Bloggress and retired law prof Ann Althouse, commenting on a New Republic story in which a photographer complains about an antifa thug breaking his camera despite his assurances that they were on the “same side.”

Yes, Ann, journalists have completely forgotten that idea, and that idea was little more than a faint memory by 2008, when total ethics amnesia set in.

The journalist in question, Mike Kessler, signals his assumed virtue by writing…

To be clear, there’s no equivalence between white supremacists and antifas. One has a message of hate, and one seeks to stop that hate…. Conflating the two groups is a way for whataboutist conservatives to play down the racist rot that is spreading on the right….

To be clear, Mike, that’s utter bullshit, though it is the basis upon which the news media, Democrats and Never-Trump Republicans mugged the President for condemning  equally—as he should have–the violent white nationalists in Charlottesville who were protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, and the violent antifa felons who attacked them to stifle their exercise of their Constitution-guaranteed rights. The far-left’s  hooded antifa assholes who claim to oppose hate while wielding it, and whose objective is to destroy the freedom of speech through intimidation, are exactly as dangerous, repulsive and wrong as the far-right bigots who want to deny equal rights and opportunities to non-white minorities. Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, Rights

The Ohio State Fair Accident: Thanks, TV News, But I’LL Decide What I Should See

From ABC News:

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Jarrell, of Columbus, Ohio, was killed Wednesday evening when the Fire Ball ride he was on at the Ohio State Fair broke apart in mid-air, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said. Seven people were also injured in the incident…The victims were transported to local hospitals and at least three are in critical condition.

On all the news channels I saw, including CNN, HLN, ABC, Fox and CBS, video taken by an onlooker was frozen at the moment the ride broke apart. As HLN’s  cheery Robin Meade put it, “We’re not going to show the rest of the video, because it’s graphic and disturbing.”

Wait, Robin: YOU saw it. The producers saw it. Why don’t I get to see it?

I posted the unedited video above. It’s not any more graphic than this…

 

…and people paid to see that scene. But never mind, the silly hyper-protectiveness isn’t the ethics issue.

The ethics issue is that this is how journalists convince themselves  that they can withhold information, or distort it, change it or spin it for our own good. No, I don’t grant them that privilege, or the role. The job of the news media is to let us know what happened, as thoroughly as they know it. Today it’s some people flying off of a malfunctioning fair ride, yesterday it’s that a President of the U.S. might have raped someone. Tomorrow it might be, oh, I don’t know, this story, which had barely nicked the news networks as of yesterday.

I don’t trust these people to decide what it’s healthy for me to watch. If they want to give warnings, fine. I want the news, the whole news, and nothing but the news. Continue reading

42 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Journalism & Media, Professions, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/29/17

1.  The GOP’s travails as it tries to fix, replace or repeal Obamacare continues to be mocked in both the conservative and liberal media, and by the Democrats who caused the crisis in the first place. Ethically, the party is behaving like a responsible party should with major legislation: not moving in lockstep, with sufficient members of Congress withholding support until the new law appears to be competent and an improvement of the current one. The damned if you do/damned if you don’t game Democrats and the media are playing is wildly dishonest and calculated to win political points at the expense of getting a better system than the festering mess called the Affordable Care Act (irresponsibly passed with public misrepresentations and parliamentary tricks by the other party.)

True, many of the balking Republicans are basing their opposition to the current law less on principle than on polls, which now show a majority of citizens don’t like the proposed bill. On matters of complexity and national importance, polls should play exactly no role in legislation at all. How many of those polled have read the bill or understand it? A tenth of a per cent? Less? Uninformed opinions based on hearsay, ignorance and propaganda are worthless (and after the 2016 election, polls may be as well) ; this is why we have representative democracy and not a direct democracy. Legislators and executive who use polls as crutches are either incompetent, dishonest, cowards, or all three.

2. Especially in light of the despicable tactics of Democrats who are accusing Republicans of killing people by reforming Obamacare, the proper Republican response, which would have the advantage of being both fair and politically smart, would be to announce, through the President:

The failure of the Affordable Care Act is now no longer debatable. Projections for 2018 show massive premium increases. Insurers are pulling out of many markets. The optimistic CBO projections, which critics correctly called absurd at the time, have been decisively shown to be wrong. This law was passed by one party only, using public disinformation,  dubious methods and dirty politics. It has made health care for the public as a whole less affordable, and done nothing to lower health care costs or improve health care quality.

It is now clear that the Democratic Party’s strategy is to shift responsibility for this fiasco to Republicans, by viciously attacking any attempts to fix Obamacare while also preparing to condemn the party if the current law leads to disaster, as it almost surely will on its current course. The Democrats, in short, are placing political considerations over the nation’s health and welfare. Therefore, as of today, the Republican Party will not seek to pass, nor will I sign into law, any health care insurance law or any revisions of the current Affordable Care Act that does not originate from Congressional Democrats, and that Congressional Democrats do not accept accountability for in every respect. The Republican Party will support any such bill, reserving of course the right to suggest additions and changes, but only if there is no question regarding the Democratic Party’s ultimate responsibility for its drafting, as an admission that their original law was fatally flawed.

In the absence of such a bill, I and the Republican Congress will allow the  this “signature legacy of President Obama” to continue, with the understanding that its failure is a Democratic failure, and the lack of a timely fix is entirely due to the cynical tactics of the party that created it.

3. Unethical Quote Of The Day That Is So Predictable That It Isn’t Worth Posting As The Unethical Quote of the Day: Salon

This will be a short break, a one-day experiment: June 27 will be Trump-Free Tuesday here on Salon.

We’ve been thinking about this for a while, and it seems like the right moment. There are so many other things to talk about and think about, in politics, culture or our daily lives. We are stuck with this guy for the foreseeable future, which is a difficult truth for many of us to handle. If we cannot dislodge him from the White House anytime soon, maybe we can start to deflate the outsized role he plays in our national psychology. This is a baby step in that direction.

How will Trump-Free Tuesday work? We have established some rules for ourselves — which we are prepared to break under certain circumstances we have tried to define in advance. (Those circumstances seem unlikely. But who knows what counts as likely anymore?)

We will not publish the president’s name on Tuesday or use his picture. We will not cover his outrageous Twitter utterances or deride his surrogates for whatever stupid things they may or may not say on television. (We try not to do that the rest of the time, too.) We’re certainly going to cover American politics and the United States government, but we will avoid focusing on the dominant personality at the top of the pyramid. We will strive to focus on issues and policies and how they are likely to affect the lives of our readers.

Note the smoking-gun line “If we cannot dislodge him from the White House anytime soon…” Continue reading

72 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Professions