Friday, August 10, 2007

Is turnaround fair play?

Two recent incidents in journalism have left me feeling both disturbed and pleased. In both cases, reporters acting in a less-than-professional manner found themselves on the receiving end of their own offensive practices.

First is the public outing and hazing of the NBC Dateline reporter who apparently declined press credentials at Defcon 15. Check out the video here. What you'll see is a bunch of Defcon attendees acting like Dateline reporters, chasing after her and saying "We only want to ask you a few questions" as she flees to her car. It is both scary and funny.

Second is what may be Facebook's first major journalism scandal. Slate recently published a story saying that Rudy Giuliani's daughter had joined a Facebook group of Barack Obama supporters. That story received enormous coverage in the rest of the press. But what many mainstream reporters have missed (or, perhaps, ignored) is that Guliani's daughter is a minor and that her Facebook page wasn't open to the public. She is not a public figure, and she did nothing to put herself into the spotlight. Rather, Slate simply violated the privacy of a minor. It's also worth noting that the reporter violated the terms of her own Facebook account by lifting material from Ms. Giuliani's page, and that the story and photo that Slate ran are misleading. Now the reporter's personal life -- including her email address and phone number -- are being spread around the Web by angry bloggers. Check out the details here.

As a journalist, I cannot help but be disturbed by the video image of an angry crowd following a reporter. Nor can I help but be disturbed by the implication that the way to respond to poor reporting is to harass the reporter.
But as a news consumer, I also cannot help but find these incidents in which reporters became the victims of their own worst practices -- entrapment, chasing people down the street with cameras, invading privacy, etc. -- as right and just.

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  1. Excellent and clever hed on this post!
    -- MU


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