journalism ethics

The Massachusetts Supreme Court is hearing the Boston Herald’s appeal of a libel lawsuit it lost several years ago. Here’s the crux of the matter:

Of the six justices who listened to oral arguments and questioned lawyers for both sides, only Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall , who is married to a nationally prominent journalist, seemed sympathetic to Sanford’s argument that the courts should not impinge on the ability of the press to criticize public figures.

“It seems to me that what the prosecutors were complaining about, in criticizing Judge Murphy, was a bias in favor of defendants and against plaintiffs,” Marshall said, adding that “this goes to the heart of what the judge should be most concerned about.”

The mere presence of factual errors in a story does not prove malice on the part of the media, she said. Actual malice must be present for there to be a libel finding against a public figure.

If the state Supreme Court finds for the plaintiff, this case will surely go to federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court set the burden of libel pretty high for public figures in Sullivan v. New York Times — I can’t imagine they’d agree that the Boston Herald’s reporting — however flawed — rises to the level of actual malice.

I think the issue here — just with the recent libel verdict in Illinois — is that the affronted party is a judge. Jurists seem to be the only public figures for whom the burden of libel is less than actual malice.

By | February 10th, 2007|Uncategorized|0 Comments

OK, so CBS says that the “editorial staff” of its promotional magazine doctored the photo of Katie Couric. Apparently the “editorial staff” is the CBS public relations department.

The $64,000 question — Is someone going to get fired over this?

Of course not, because photoshopping women to make them look unnaturally beautiful is our current status quo.

Click here for more examples.

By | August 30th, 2006|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Great column from the Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz on the John Karr fisco:

Will every anchor, correspondent and producer who shamelessly hyped the John Mark Karr story now apologize for taking the country for a ride? … So Karr was a fake, and the media caravan moves on. But I don’t think the public forgets. They should teach this one in journalism schools for a long time.

Good advice.

By | August 29th, 2006|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Here’s the NY Times’ take on the latest blogger-inspired, media-bias catch:

Mr. Hajj, a Lebanese photographer based in the Middle East, may not be familiar to many newspaper readers. But thanks to the swift justice of the Internet, he has been charged, tried and convicted of improperly altering photographs he took for Reuters. The pictures ran on the Reuters news service on Saturday, and were discovered almost instantly by bloggers to have been manipulated. Reuters then announced on Sunday that it had fired the freelancer. Executives said yesterday that they were still investigating why they had not discovered the manipulation before the pictures were disseminated to newspapers.

The article’s got a distinct this-isn’t-really-a-big-deal feel to it.

By | August 9th, 2006|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Michelle Kosinski

Here’s the photo of Michelle Kosinski, the Today Show reporter caught in a canoe in a foot of water. The more I think about it, this really captures the moral ineptness that has befallen today’s journalism. Makes me wonder what other crearly amoral decisions journalists are making everyday.

By the way, why hasn’t she and the producer been fired? Here’s a New York Observer story about the incident which is played more as a comedy than a tragedy. Interesting.

By | October 20th, 2005|Uncategorized|0 Comments