19 October 2009

Journalistic Ethics and Political Gamesmanship

After Joe Romm was caught out putting words in a scientist's mouth in the form of a quote manufactured to support one of his political vendettas, Romm justifies his behavior by explaining:
It is exceedingly common in regular journalism to ask people for a quote that makes a very specific point — I’ve been asked many times by reporters to do similar things.
Keith Kloor a journalist, former editor at Audubon magazine and adjunct professor at NYU says in response to Romm's admission,
I’ve never done this during my career as a magazine journalist. . . feeding a source a quote is a serous breach of journalistic ethics. At NYU, where I’ve been an adjunct journalism professor, I couldn’t imagine telling a student this was acceptable behavior. In fact, in the five years I’ve taught classes there, I can’t recall when a student has even asked if this was acceptable behavior. I mean, it just feels wrong to do that kind of thing.
Bud Ward, editor of the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media has some strong things to say as well:
I agree that it is/would be an extraordinary breach of journalistic ethics for a reporter to attempt, let alone succeed, to plant a quote, regardless of the medium of distribution — magazine, newspaper, TV, online, radio. For it to be a regular event implies to my mind that the source must routinely deal with the most unscrupulous of writers…I dare not even dignify them by calling them journalists or reporters or editors. If they engage in such practices…they’re not and don’t deserve to be so identified. A sad sign of times in rapidly changing nature of just who is and is not a journalist and what is and is not journalism. But in the end, it’s simple: Planting quotes is NOT journalism.
I wonder which reporters Romm is referring to when he says that he has had reporters do "similar things" to what he has been revealed to have done? Somehow I doubt that we'll have any journalists admitting to such practices. Either Romm is making stuff up (again) to cover an embarrassing disclosure about his own unethical behavior, or, the media is in worse trouble that I have previously thought. I'll go with the first option until Romm supports his assertion with names and quotes.