Tag Archives: Society of Professional Journalists

Interviewing the interviewers

Last night I had a healthy debate on Facebook with the former chair of SPJ’s Ethics Committee, as well as a couple of other SPJ members, though they may be former members, now.

It all stemmed from an article in The New York Times about NBC News’ and ESPN’s recent interview with Janay Rice, the wife of NFL player Ray Rice. (In case you missed it, there is video of Ray Rice hitting his then fiance, now wife, Janay Rice, while they were in an elevator in a hotel in Las Vegas. Ray Rice was then let go from the Baltimore Ravens, and Roger Goddell, the NFL’s commissioner, suspended Ray Rice indefinitely from the NFL. An arbitrator ruled last week that Ray Rice be reinstated to the NFL, overturning.)

Kevin Smith, the former ethics chair, posted this on Facebook, with a link to the NYT story:

This is a disturbing trend that is greatly undermining the credibility of broadcast new — buying exclusive interviews and allowing sources to audition the outlets that will interview them.

This isn’t about truth. It’s about spin and managing the message and the TV media is buying into it and putting millions in the pockets of these celebrity sources for the privilege of skewing the story.

The news has always been about competition and getting the exclusive interview, but today, network deep pockets and public relations managers are controlling news content and the public is expected to accept this as honest and fair reporting.

Ethical journalists need to rebel. Refuse to audition for a scripted interview that does nothing more than serve as a PR statement from the source. Stop paying for news. Period. How can the public place any trust in a story when they know a network paid hundred of thousands to the person for the “truth”?

The following is posted with permission from the commenters.

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Ben Bradlee, editor of The Washington Post, dies at 93

SPJ BadgeBen Bradlee, the former editor of The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, has died at age 93.

Bradlee’s impact on journalism – and journalists – is far reaching. He made tough decisions, like to publish the Pentagon Papers. He didn’t pull back on stories, like the Watergate scandal. And he held his reporters to high expectations.

I had the opportunity to listen to Bradlee in 2007 at the Society of Professional Journalism’s annual conference. That year it was in Washington, D.C. and Bradlee joined Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Daniel Schorr, and Bob Schieffer during a keynote about Watergate. SPJ quoted Schorr as saying Woodward and Bernstein changed the face of journalism.

[Schorr] called it the “Watergate syndrome” and said that afterward, people started to question authority more.

“We should not assume that when the presidents or the press secretaries speak, they are saying the truth. And we had that example,” Schorr said. “It’s really about investigative reporting.”

Had it not been for the support of Bradlee, I don’t know whether the same could have been said of the two reporters. People close to Bradlee said he lived and breathed journalism – that it was his life.

The news industry has changed dramatically – a few times over – since Bradlee left the Post, but the expectation of journalists to question authority and dig as deep as possible has not waiver. That, in part, should be credited to Bradlee’s tenacious attitude.