Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater ...

Joe Fox

There are cheaters in every business. Whether it's politics, sports, banking, manufacturing, journalism or something else, there are always people looking to get ahead quickly — people who would do just about anything to do so.

And for a while, everything is fine. For a while, Bud Fox did just fine under the guidance of Gordon Gecko. For a while, Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley got away with their brand of "creative journalism" and plagiarism. But the thing is, they got caught, and now we all have to deal with it. Maybe we should.

Maybe we should have to prove that we deserve our most valuable asset: the public's trust. Could it be that enough of us have betrayed the public that we need show that we're worthy of it?

That's what our codes of ethics should do. We should be saying, "Look, here's what we value: truth, objectivity, etc. Jayson Blair didn't follow that. Jack Kelley didn't follow that. And neither of them will work in the business again." We should be letting the public know our values, letting the public know there still are journalists out there who do value these things.

We can point to the models of good journalism, the established fixtures of the industry who got where they are by doing it right: Jim Romanesko, who keeps a watchful eye on all of us, Jonathan Katz, Paul Steiger and others.

Even so, there's no way to force everyone to follow our codes. We can't stop people from trying to cheat the system. All we can do is be vigilant. We need to keep an eye out for the cheaters, the bad eggs, because they make us all look bad. They don't just sabotage their own careers — they sabotage ours, too.

A Not-So-Subtle Cheating Technique

No comments:

Post a Comment