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Monday, April 23, 2012

Liberal Media Malpractice: Who Holds Them Accountable For Breaching SPJ Codes of Ethics?

By Susan Duclos

 Two headlines caught the eye this morning and both address the integrity or in these cases, lack of integrity of liberal media and the deliberate breaching of their own Code of Ethics.

First is published in the New York Times where they headline "TV Corrects Itself, Just Not on the Air." The piece discusses the controversial editing of an audio clip by NBC, shown to their "Today" show audience, which edited out a 911 operator's question to George Zimmerman asking about the race of Trayvon Martin, leaving viewers with the deliberate impression that he volunteered information with no prompting on the race of Martin.

After broadcasting an audio clip on the “Today” show about George Zimmerman last month that hit the trifecta of being misleading, incendiary and dead-bang wrong, NBC News management took serious action: it fired the producer in charge and issued a statement apologizing for making it appear as if Mr. Zimmerman had made overtly racist statements.

The only thing NBC didn’t do was correct the report on the “Today” show. 

The NYT writer went as far as to call the president of NBC News:

I called Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, prepared to do battle over the lack of on-air remediation. Even though Mr. Capus had personally investigated the error, issued two statements on the matter, taken disciplinary action against six employees and led a series of meetings to remind people of best practices, nobody on the “Today” show had explained what happened, or apologized for it, to the audience. 

That seemed wrong to me. A network’s primary contract is with the viewers who tune in to its shows every day, one that is more important than any obligation it feels to journalistic pundits or Beltway politicos. 

“You’re probably right,” Mr. Capus said right away. 

Gee, I hate when that happens. All of the arguments I had rehearsed were suddenly defused. We talked some more anyway. 

“The reality is that we didn’t try to hide from it,” he said. “We did an awful lot of work after it happened. We did an exhaustive investigation, I did interviews with a lot of publications to get the message out, but we probably should have done it on our own air.”

Capus admits it was wrong to not provide the audience that originally saw the segment with the truth, admits they should have done so on air, yet still hasn't.

The next example of media malpractice from a liberal newtwork is MSNBC.

 PowerLine explains:

We wrote in MSNBC, the Faux News Network about MSNBC’s latest attack on the Koch brothers, whom guest host Karen Finney outrageously blamed for the Trayvon Martin shooting. Finney’s slander was repeated on MSNBC by former Obama administration official Van Jones, who said, “You’ve got all of the passion around Trayvon and what a horrible injustice that was and you can draw a direct line to the Koch brothers.” The Koch organization naturally complained about these more or less insane smears. What was the result? MSNBC admitted that its host had acted wrongfully, but refused to apologize or to address the main thrust of Koch’s complaint: that the network should not recklessly promulgate lies.

They go on to provide the complete set of emails between Koch and MSNBC which is evidence enough of what is quoted above and also shows how MSNBC first attempted to avoid the issue, then made constant excuses as why they did not address the issue, then outright refused to correct the issue.

This has led to another piece by PowerLine asking "Have Our News Organizations Gone Crazy?"

According to the Society of Professional Journalists there are Codes of Ethics that journalists and reporters should adhere to, separated into categories including; Seek the Truth and Report it, Minimize Harm,  Act Independently, and Be Accountable.

Below are those codes under their proper headline and those in bold are those that both NBC and MSNBC have trampled on and ignored totally in the examples listed above.

Seek the Truth and Report it

 — Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
— Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
— Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
— Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
— Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
— Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
— Never plagiarize.
— Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
— Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
— Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
— Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
— Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
— Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
— Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.

Minimize Harm

— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
— Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
— Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
— Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

Act Independently

—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

Be Accountable

Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
— Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

 NBC and MSNBC have broken codes in every single category listed by the SPJ Code of Ethics, yet who is holding them accountable when their media counterparts refuse to do so?

Kudos to The New York Times for publishing the piece calling NBC to the carpet for not providing the truth to the same audience they lied to.