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Sins of journalism

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Joe Williams, Aug 5, 2008.


What is the worst ethical breach a journalist can commit?

  1. Taking money or other personal gains from a source

    5 vote(s)
  2. Plagiarizing a story from another journalist

    29 vote(s)
  3. Fabricating a story (making up facts, quotes)

    82 vote(s)
  4. Tilting coverage intentionally through bias

    2 vote(s)
  5. Targeting the subject of a story for personal reasons

    2 vote(s)
  6. Forcing someone into a role they hate, hoping they'll quit (without severance)

    1 vote(s)
  7. Laying off someone you hired within last 6 mos.

    1 vote(s)
  8. Some other transgression

    3 vote(s)
  1. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Let's get this on the table: What is the worst ethical breach a journalist can commit? There seems to be a range of reactions to plagiarism, based on the "Everett sportswriter" thread. Here are a few other lapses that might compete for the title of journalism's cardinal sin.
  2. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    My vote is cast.

    I wish there were a way to pick the top three. Fabrication and targeting someone probably would be right there with plagiarism.
  3. Diabeetus

    Diabeetus Active Member

    I'd split my vote between fabricating and taking things from a source. I went with fabricating because it has a much more widespread effect on the industry.
  4. accguy

    accguy Member

    I voted fabrication because that reflects poorly on all of us and hurts the credibility of every single one of us.

    Many of the things on this list are sins of management and aren't exclusive to journalism (unfortunately).
  5. 2muchcoffeeman

    2muchcoffeeman Active Member

    1. Fabrication.
    2. Taking money.
    3. Tilting coverage intentionally through bias.
    4. Targeting the subject of a story for personal reasons
    5. Plagiarism.
  6. FileNotFound

    FileNotFound Well-Known Member

    Bad management reflects poorly on the manager. Bad journalism reflects badly on all journalists.
  7. Plagiarizing is pretty bad, but making up stuff is hard to top.
  8. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    Glad we're all on the same page here.
  9. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Actually, I strained for the last two options because I wanted to include something pertinent to managers. All we hear about is how plagiarists need to be whacked, at a time in our business when too many managers are letting the s--- roll downhill at an incredible rate or they're grudging/willing participants (in a self-preservation way) with those cutting and slashing staff. Yet there seems to be no "cardinal sin" for them specific to the craft.

    Thanks to all for participating!
  10. 1. Targeting a subject for personal reasons.
    2. Fabricating/Taking money
    3. Plagiarism

    I chose my No. 1 based on the fact that, at its worst, there's a victim and an aggressor. This is why they have libel laws.

    Fabricating and taking money are obviously awful. They stain not only the journalists but the entire profession.

    Plagiarism is bad, but not up there with the top 3.
  11. Sam Craig

    Sam Craig Member

    I agree.

    My vote would have been equally for the top three. To me, it's really hard to sepearate any of those three. All equally IMO tarnishes credibility.

    Both letting bias into story and targeting someone for personal reasons aren't very ethical but the resulting stories still could be accurate and credible.

    I'd put six and seven under the simple category of business ethics. They really don't have anything to do with journalism ethics but they certainly have a lot to do with business ethics and how a business is run. On that note, I think laying off someone you hired in the last six months in the least offensive.

    Putting someone in a role they hate and hoping they'll quit is something that the manager consciously is doing. They are purposely trying to hurt someone.

    On the other hand, when the person who was layed off before six months was hired, the manager probably had no clue that the person would have to layed off down the road. I don't like it but let's face it, when times get tough in any industry, it is going to result in layoffs.
  12. Lester Bangs

    Lester Bangs Active Member

    I knew a guy who did No. 5 -- targeting a person through a story -- with a female athlete whose pants he was trying to access. She was a deep reserve on a bad team and really wasn't worth a story. I say, "why the hell are you writing about her? She's a bad player on a bad team and nobody cares."

    His reply: "Have you seen her?"

    Saw him the next week at one of our local bars, trying to make time with her. The sad thing is, it was more pathetic than unethical because this guy was/is a waste of space in every way and the girl was stunning. The memory of her makes me happy.
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