Great Eastern Hotel, Glasgow
I’ve been following The Guardian’s coverage of the News International phone-hacking scandal. While I think hacking a person’s phone is criminal and should be treated as such, I disagree with The Guardian's apparent position that subterfuge should never be committed by journalists.
I’ve misrepresented myself several times: I dressed in rags and pretended to be homeless in order to get admitted to the Great Eastern Hotel in Glasgow, because I wanted to examine the conditions there. When I heard that a nursing home was neglecting its residents, I pretended that I had an elderly relative I wanted to find a place for. I’ve gone on ride-along with cops who didn’t know I was a journalist, because I wanted to report what they actually said when they didn’t expect consequences. When Sheriff Joe Arpaio was acting as a “celebrity waiter” at a charity event, I went to the restaurant for dinner, pretending to be a tourist from Scotland, and asked him whether he was going to run for governor. There have been other such deceptions - these are only the ones that spring to mind right now - and the sad fact is that they are often necessary in matters of public interest. It should be exceptional, and a last resort, but as long as the privacy of individuals is not being violated, I see no ethical problem with it.
"Graham has a visual style and writerly voice that are all his own: timely, urban and powerful."
Anyone who found my claim that the U.S. is not a free country to be hyperbolic is advised to read Mac McClelland’s latest article for Mother Jones, "A Visit to the Warehouse of Soul-Crushing Sadness."
The Associated Press has warned its journalists not to express any opinions on social networks. In a memo to staff, managing editor Tom Kent wrote:
In at least two recent cases, we have seen a few postings on social networks by AP staffers expressing personal opinions on issues in the news.
This has happened on the New York Senate vote on gay marriage and on the Casey Anthony trial. These posts undermine the credibility of our colleagues who have been working so hard to assure balanced and unbiased coverage of these issues.
AP’s News Values and Principles state that anyone who works for AP must be mindful that opinions they express may damage the AP’s reputation as an unbiased source of news. This point is contained in our social network guidelines as well.
Failure to abide by these rules can lead to disciplinary action.
The vast majority of our tweets on these stories — and on other issues in the news — have been completely in line with our guidelines. They pose no problem at all, and are consistent with the importance of AP staffers being active on social networks.
But social networks, however we may configure our accounts or select our friends, should be considered a public forum. AP staffers should not make postings there that amount to personal opinions on contentious public issues.
Please let your supervisor or me know if you have any questions on this. And thanks.
Passive news reporting that doesn’t attempt to resolve factual disputes in politics may have detrimental effects on readers, new research suggests.
How could it not?
The study found that people are more likely to doubt their own ability to determine the truth in politics after reading an article that simply lists competing claims without offering any idea of which side is right.
Last year, I wrote about the fact-free formula most U.S. journalists are forced to follow, a formula that pretends to provide news in the same way that McDonald’s pretends to provide food.
The two best articles I read last year were published in the most recent issues of Mother Jones.
Charlie LeDuff’s story of a little girl killed in her home by Detroit cops is one of the best (and most heartbreaking) magazine articles ever.
Mac McClelland’s reporting from Haiti is described, by the author herself, as “disgusting.” It is, and that’s part of why it’s so important.