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What Is A Journalist's Ethical Duty When a Political Leader Tells An Untruth?

George Costanza

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A political leader makes a statement that is later determined to not only have been untrue, but to have been a lie, i.e., the political leader knew it was false when it was uttered. The statement is reported by the media as if it is factually correct. It is not questioned.

Has the media failed to do something it should have done by not questioning the statement and/or by leading the public to believe it is a true statement?

What is the responsibility of journalism with respect to statements made by political leaders which they report? If a journalist knows that a political leader is lying, does he or she have a duty to say as much? Or is it only a journalist's duty to report what is said, without "passing judgement" on the utterance?
 

Quantum Windbag

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A political leader makes a statement that is later determined to not only have been untrue, but to have been a lie, i.e., the political leader knew it was false when it was uttered. The statement is reported by the media as if it is factually correct. It is not questioned.

Has the media failed to do something it should have done by not questioning the statement and/or by leading the public to believe it is a true statement?

What is the responsibility of journalism with respect to statements made by political leaders which they report? If a journalist knows that a political leader is lying, does he or she have a duty to say as much? Or is it only a journalist's duty to report what is said, without "passing judgement" on the utterance?

I guess that depends on who you ask. I would think so, but I am not a journalist.
 
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George Costanza

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Gulf ....of ...Tonkin.....:eusa_whistle:

Excellent example. I am not trying to single out any particular political leader here. Almost all of them put out a few lies during their careers.

The issue is, what should a journalist do when that happens?
 

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Protect democrats at all costs.....
 

Foxfyre

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I am or was a journalist and have worked for newspapers (as a reporter) and for radio and television. But that was a long time ago when journalistic ethics were real and every credible journalist took pride in them. Any hint of bias in a straight news story would get us a stern lecture from the city editor. An intentional misstatement of facts would get you fired.

We didn't call anybody a liar. But we would report what a person said as well as the person with information to counter the statement. Or, if we had the real skinny, we would report it with a source. The first paragraph contained who, what, where, when, why, and how and no pertinent fact relevant to the story was any lower than the third paragraph. We were paid to dig for the truth in any story and the rule was verify, verify, verify before printing a word that could damage a person's reputation or hurt his/her family or whatever.

These days reporters and editors, if they bother to check facts at all, too often don't report inconvenient facts that interfere with their personal bias which is apparent in the news stories. And they will report any fact, however questionable, that supports somebody they favor or makes somebody they don't favor look bad. The bias is apparent in where they place 'facts' in the story, the headlines they use, the photo selected, and the page the story appears in the newspaper or how near the top of the schedule it appears on a radio or TV report. The politics of personal destruction is rampant in the media as well as in the body politic.

Short answer to George's question: a competent and ethical media will not knowingly promote anybody's lie as the truth.

The media has not been competent nor ethical for some time now with a very few exceptions.
 
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Wry Catcher

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A political leader makes a statement that is later determined to not only have been untrue, but to have been a lie, i.e., the political leader knew it was false when it was uttered. The statement is reported by the media as if it is factually correct. It is not questioned.

Has the media failed to do something it should have done by not questioning the statement and/or by leading the public to believe it is a true statement?

What is the responsibility of journalism with respect to statements made by political leaders which they report? If a journalist knows that a political leader is lying, does he or she have a duty to say as much? Or is it only a journalist's duty to report what is said, without "passing judgement" on the utterance?

What's a "journalist"? (Sorry. You ask a serious and important question and it deserves a serous response. Sadly the snarky and sarcastric question was the first thing to jump into my head.).

A journalist has a duty to his/her profession, but is that the higher duty? If a journalist knows that a president lied, and knowingly did so, isn't the first duty of a journalist to ask (find out) why?

If the journalist learned the president lied to prevent a harm to the people, what then is the duty of the journalist? To decieve his readers, or to allow them to be harmed? Surely the deception is the lesser evil.
 
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A political leader makes a statement that is later determined to not only have been untrue, but to have been a lie, i.e., the political leader knew it was false when it was uttered. The statement is reported by the media as if it is factually correct. It is not questioned.

Has the media failed to do something it should have done by not questioning the statement and/or by leading the public to believe it is a true statement?

What is the responsibility of journalism with respect to statements made by political leaders which they report? If a journalist knows that a political leader is lying, does he or she have a duty to say as much? Or is it only a journalist's duty to report what is said, without "passing judgement" on the utterance?

Ask the current Media, it absolutely REFUSED to do its job when Obama ran for President and all through his Presidency.
 
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I am or was a journalist and have worked for newspapers (as a reporter) and for radio and television. But that was a long time ago when journalistic ethics were real and every credible journalist took pride in them. Any hint of bias in a straight news story would get us a stern lecture from the city editor. An intentional misstatement of facts would get you fired.

We didn't call anybody a liar. But we would report what a person said as well as the person with information to counter the statement. Or, if we had the real skinny, we would report it with a source. The first paragraph contained who, what, where, when, why, and how and no pertinent fact relevant to the story was any lower than the third paragraph. We were paid to dig for the truth in any story and the rule was verify, verify, verify before printing a word that could damage a person's reputation or hurt his/her family or whatever.

These days reporters and editors, if they bother to check facts at all, too often don't report inconvenient facts that interfere with their personal bias which is apparent in the news stories. And they will report any fact, however questionable, that supports somebody they favor or makes somebody they don't favor look bad. The bias is apparent in where they place 'facts' in the story, the headlines they use, the photo selected, and the page the story appears in the newspaper or how near the top of the schedule it appears on a radio or TV report. The politics of personal destruction is rampant in the media as well as in the body politic.

Short answer to George's question: a competent and ethical media will not knowingly promote anybody's lie as the truth.

The media has not been competent nor ethical for some time now with a very few exceptions.

This. ^^
 

editec

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Journalism is not a profession.

It has NO ETHICAL guidelines.
 

RetiredGySgt

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Journalism is not a profession.

It has NO ETHICAL guidelines.

Then why is it claimed to be a profession by the Colleges and Universities that teach it? What are all the people currently working in that NON PROFESSION actually doing?
 

Immanuel

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A political leader makes a statement that is later determined to not only have been untrue, but to have been a lie, i.e., the political leader knew it was false when it was uttered. The statement is reported by the media as if it is factually correct. It is not questioned.

Has the media failed to do something it should have done by not questioning the statement and/or by leading the public to believe it is a true statement?

What is the responsibility of journalism with respect to statements made by political leaders which they report? If a journalist knows that a political leader is lying, does he or she have a duty to say as much? Or is it only a journalist's duty to report what is said, without "passing judgement" on the utterance?

President Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party?

I don't think you can blame the journalist for reporting what was said. I think if they know it is "incorrect" (the President may not have been deceitful with that comment, he could have made an honest mistake) they should correct it in the report. If they find out later (within a reasonable amount of time) they should update the story and correct the error.

Unfortunately, I don't think we have journalists reporting the news any longer. What we have are advertising agencies who work to boost the image of people they agree with or tear down the image of the people they disagree with. The "news" is a byproduct of their new "profession".

Immie
 

percysunshine

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Is posting on a message board or a blog a form of 'journalism'?

If so, the answer to the OP is pretty clear
 

editec

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Journalism is not a profession.

It has NO ETHICAL guidelines.

Then why is it claimed to be a profession by the Colleges and Universities that teach it? What are all the people currently working in that NON PROFESSION actually doing?

Your problem is that you don't understand what makes some workers PROFESSIONALS and other not.


Professions are self regulating by their members.

Typically they have a semilegal authority to decide who is in the profession.

Additionally, their overseeing organization typically has self determined ethical code.

Journalism is NOT a profession.

In addition there is NO ethical code, the deviation from which, is going to drive the transgressor out of that activity with the force of law.


There is no licensure, no overseeing giuld body, no ethical code in the business of journalism.

the fact that journalism is taught in schools and universities makes not a wit of difference
 

Trajan

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i am or was a journalist and have worked for newspapers (as a reporter) and for radio and television. But that was a long time ago when journalistic ethics were real and every credible journalist took pride in them. Any hint of bias in a straight news story would get us a stern lecture from the city editor. An intentional misstatement of facts would get you fired.

We didn't call anybody a liar. But we would report what a person said as well as the person with information to counter the statement. Or, if we had the real skinny, we would report it with a source. The first paragraph contained who, what, where, when, why, and how and no pertinent fact relevant to the story was any lower than the third paragraph. We were paid to dig for the truth in any story and the rule was verify, verify, verify before printing a word that could damage a person's reputation or hurt his/her family or whatever.

These days reporters and editors, if they bother to check facts at all, too often don't report inconvenient facts that interfere with their personal bias which is apparent in the news stories. And they will report any fact, however questionable, that supports somebody they favor or makes somebody they don't favor look bad. The bias is apparent in where they place 'facts' in the story, the headlines they use, the photo selected, and the page the story appears in the newspaper or how near the top of the schedule it appears on a radio or tv report. The politics of personal destruction is rampant in the media as well as in the body politic.

Short answer to george's question: A competent and ethical media will not knowingly promote anybody's lie as the truth.

The media has not been competent nor ethical for some time now with a very few exceptions.

this. ^^

+1
 
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George Costanza

George Costanza

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Thanks all. Great responses thus far.

The question raised in the OP came from a documentary I saw called "The War You Don't See." As the title implies, it was about how the media rarely reports what is really going on in a war because the government does not want them to out of fear that if the public really know what was happening, public pressure would put a stop to the war instantly.

The example given (of course) was the statements made by Colin Powell, Bush, Rice and Cheney designed to drum up public support for the invasion of Iraq. But this kind of stuff is not entirely Republican in nature - all administrations have done it. WW II had more than its share of governmental bull shit and, as my Best Friend Oddball points out, LBJ certainly did his part with the Gulf of Tonkin fiasco.

I don't want this thread to turn into partisan finger pointing - the focus is on journalistic responsibility rather than governmental propaganda, regardless of the political party putting the propaganda out.
 

Immanuel

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Thanks all. Great responses thus far.

The question raised in the OP came from a documentary I saw called "The War You Don't See." As the title implies, it was about how the media rarely reports what is really going on in a war because the government does not want them to out of fear that if the public really know what was happening, public pressure would put a stop to the war instantly.

The example given (of course) was the statements made by Colin Powell, Bush, Rice and Cheney designed to drum up public support for the invasion of Iraq. But this kind of stuff is not entirely Republican in nature - all administrations have done it. WW II had more than its share of governmental bull shit and, as my Best Friend Oddball points out, LBJ certainly did his part with the Gulf of Tonkin fiasco.

I don't want this thread to turn into partisan finger pointing - the focus is on journalistic responsibility rather than governmental propaganda, regardless of the political party putting the propaganda out.

If you don't want it to turn into that, I suggest you ask a moderator to close it real soon. :lol:

Immie
 

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In the matter of sensitive information, a responsible press will take into account the consequences of what reporting a story might be. If there is a rumor that a dam might fail, for instance, I, as a reporter, go check it out. The authorities may confirm that there is a concern but ask us to hold up on the story until their engineers complete a full inspection rather than start a panic A responsible press will sit on that story as requested. (Though in truth, we will be sniffing around to see if what we are told is legit or somebody is just stalling. If we have credibly sourced information that the risk is greater than what the authorities want us to know, then we reported it.)

As far as reporting on war, that is a serious judgment call on the part of a responsible press. As long as there are boots in the ground in harm's way, a responsible press/reponsible citizen will not report any useful information to the enemy or provide aid and comfort to the enemy in any way. That would include any speculation that the leaders 'lied' us into the war. Without iron clad proof, such should never be suggested.

After Vietnam, I was privy to a televised discussion--can't remember if it was on public TV or closed circuit--that included a high ranking Vietcong Officer, apparently receiving asylum in the U.S. He said that we had them beaten in the Tet Offensive. What gave them incentive to keep on fighting was that they saw little on television of prayer vigils or people supporting the war. But every night on television were scenes of seemingly rioting Americans burning U.S. flags and draft cards and angrily denouncing the war. It was sufficient to make the Viet Cong believe that public opinion was on their side and the U.S. would cave. So the war dragged on at the cost of tens of thousands of American lives and many more than that of Vietnamese lives.

As a reporter, I have an ethical duty to always measure the people's right to know against harm that can be done because the story was published or broadcast.
 

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