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Was I wrong about journalists?

Maybe I spoke too soon.

On the same day I wrote and published an entry assuring public affairs officers that most reporters are responsible professionals just trying to serve the public, media watchdog Jim Romanesko published this item: A reporter for the Daily Caller apparently threatened to make up a source’s response to a question if the source didn’t respond to inquiries.

The question pertained to whether Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, still has confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder in the wake of the Fast and Furious scandal. Reporter Matthew Boyle wanted a comment from Brad Woodhouse, communications director of the Committee. And when he didn’t get one, Romanesko reports, Boyle told him: “I’m giving you until 10 a.m. tomorrow to answer this question, then I’m reporting Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not supporting Holder. “

When other reporters asked Boyle to explain what looks like a blackmail attempt, he told BuzzFeed that wasn't the case. “I wanted to give Brad plenty of time to respond before we reported, correctly, that the DNC would offer The Daily Caller no verbal support for Eric Holder," he said in BuzzFeed's report.

Well, maybe. But his e-mail to Woodhouse clearly says that what he planned to report was that Wasserman Schultz “is not supporting Holder,” which is different from “would offer The Daily Caller no verbal support…” One is a definitive statement of a position, the other expresses insufficient information. Not really the same thing.

So there was that, and then there were some reader comments on my earlier post telling me that I must not know how many reporters operate these days. One anonymous commenter advised me, “You need to survey the public affairs specialists on the crap journalists pull.”

OK. Challenge accepted. Public affairs officers, private-sector PR pros, and reporters too … comment here or e-mail me your stories at mhardy@fcw.com. Am I too idealistic about the high ethical standards of many in my field? Or are the senationalizers and ethically-challenged a rare exception?

If enough people have enough to say, I’ll highlight the best stories in a future entry and possibly in our print edition as well. 

Posted by Michael Hardy on Mar 15, 2012 at 12:18 PM


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