Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Newsweek Scandal

In the Newsweek-Koran-in-the-toilet scandal of the past week, press commentators and pundits have overlooked what they must regard as an inconsequential detail: the ethics of showing a draft of one’s story to a source.

Far from being without consequence, it’s not only a question not only of journalistic ethics-but also of the independence of the press.

Newsweek’s reporter, Michael Isikoff, admitted that he showed a draft of his Koran-in-the-toilet lines to at least one source in the Pentagon. His admission brought no outcry from the press.

Maybe that’s because professional associations of journalists provide no clear standard for evaluating the practice, nor do textbooks for training reporters. The text most widely adopted in college journalism programs, Writing and Reporting News, deals with the issue, not in its chapter on ethics, but in a chapter called “Accuracy and Libel.”

“Should you show your story to sources or read it to them before you print it? Many of your sources will ask you to do that,” it advises.

“And many editors will say you shouldn’t,” it continues. “They claim the risks are too great that sources will recant what they have told you or ask you to delete any information that puts them in a bad light.”

The text then cites a former director of the prestigious organization, Investigative Reporters and Editors, as having confessed-or boasted–that “my practice of pre-publication readbacks and manuscript submissions has led to more accurate, fair and thorough newspaper pieces, magazine articles and books.”

In other words, and quite in keeping with American newspaper procedures, journalism textbooks provide a “balanced” report on the issue-drawing no conclusions, setting forth no advice, advocating nothing.

Yet standards can be and sometimes are invoked. The New York Times did not offer authorities a “readback” of its coverage of the Pentagon papers before publishing, nor did Woodward and Bernstein run their stories past the Nixon press office, though both series might have faced less challenge had the Times and Post reporters or editors done so.

Thirty years have passed since then.

I would suggest that in today’s environment, if reporters or editors at leading publications in Venezuela, for example, were to reveal that they send drafts of stories to officials of the Hugh Chavez government-they do not do this–the usual supervisors of the ethics of the American press would raise a furor. They’d rant that press independence had been assassinated in Venezuela.

Here, perhaps, its death was a case of unrecorded suicide.

DICK J. REAVIS is an assistant professor of English at North Carolina State University. He can be reached at: dickjreavis@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Dick J. Reavis is a Texas journalist and the author of The Ashes of Waco.

October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail