Friday, April 24, 2015

Ethics On The Fly

[From Alaska Press Club session - these are rough notes, missed a lot, but it will give you a sense of the session.  Too much happening to do more.  Lots of good discussion.]

Jacqui Banaszynski
Lanpher and Banaszynski
Katherine Lanpher

Ethical Responsibilities of an Editor?

Editor and reporter not different - emphasis different.  Reporter more in the field and with resources.  Relationship fraught with conflict - obligation to sources, don't want to lose them, cutting deals with them.

Sports beat reporter didn't do serious sports investigation reports.

Editor's responsibility - ask all the right questions, protect reporters and company.  Both have responsibility to craft.  Pressure points - want to protect reporter, but have bigger responsibilities.

Didn't think we had ethical quandaries, but, yes, off course.

Free lance reporting - consequences.  Al Jazeera has three reporters in Egyptian prison.  Responsibility for safety.  James Foley, Danny Pearl - doing one dumb thing.  Not run dangerous stuff, then others will follow.  If someone takes him hostage, we can't send in rescue.  

Bring back to other end of the spectrum.  Every decision journalist makes is an ethical one.  Who to talk to who not to talk to.  Using one word versus another can be an ethical decision.

Take for granted, fair and ethical, get all sides of the story.  So why do we take police report, maybe talk to victim, but who are we missing?  We do that all over, don't talk to the suspects.

Reporter versus Editor - back to Rolling Stone - we could talk for days.  Huge cohort adamant that reporter should never write again.   She was a freelancer.  She didn't have regular benefits, salary,  . . .

But she still shouldn't have done what she did.

Decision that might be ethical in one situation isn't in another. 

Margaret Sullivan - interface between NY Times and public.

Ethics at a small time publication.

My other half is journalist.  Got fired when economy went bad.  60 year old white guy, unemployed.  Invented his own job.  Funky little fabulous newspaper.  I was invited to big fancy lunch for politician.
You can't go.
I have to.
You can't go to fundraiser, you're a journalist, unless you go to Republican fund raisers.
Publisher, me, had a long discussion with the editor (me), and the publisher won.

New Yorker Piece - Rachel Aviv  - small town newspaper reporting New Town B - editor is a philosopher.  Made decision how they were going to serve their community after watching how the national media covered things.  Consciously decided to do news that would help the community - never mention the name of the massacre.

Ethics is not something you have, rather something you do.  Values is something you have. 

 Discussion of small time publisher going to fund raiser.
Won't vote in primaries - if have to register for a party.  
I don't want anyone to think they know where I am politically and how that would affect my writing. 
This is changing with your generation - they see and question the false neutrality of the press.  Say, wouldn't it be better to be open where we stand on things.  And that raises interesting territory.  Where do you draw the line?  Yes I'm going to be involved in my community and civic life, but will do with with certain guidelines. 
I assume if you go to Occupy Wall Street, you're going to cover it.  My boss, a Brit, at the Guardian, it was policy that you went to the protest.  We've had heated words because we have a South African . . . 

Things got more into advocacy - sending a gay reporter to cover the Obergefell case in the Supreme Court.  There was a long discussion about whether transparency is enough to overcome people's bias.  Early AIDS writing was done by gay press, because they knew what was happening.  What about covering the opening of a new store owned by reporter's sister, who is the only reporter in a small town.  Response:  Disclose the relationship.

Off the record.  Don't assume people use it the same way.  Be clear what that person means.  Public officials owe people information, even private officials in some cases, probably shouldn't let them go off the record.  Exploratory interview - still trying to figure out what the story is.  "I'm still trying to decide if there is a story about how public records.   .  I need help figuring whether there is a story."

"Why don't we try it on the record.  How much can you tell me on the record?"

Different with public officials who know how to dance and private citizens who don't usually deal with the press, need time to explain. 

Moved to small town, people weren't used to reporters reporting everything.  Set up one-on-one meetings with officials and talked about the public meetings law and my roll and how we could get along - and that helped a lot. 

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