By: Melinda Balandra
Do you keep your ethical news values in check while working on a story? Each news story should be created from a commitment to the truth and involves such journalistic values as accuracy, dignity and sufficiency. Accuracy in using the correct facts and right words. Dignity in respecting the subject of a story. Sufficiency in checking each and every fact possible before beginning to write.
Jayson Blair violated these, and other, journalistic values during the 18 months he reported for the New York Times; resulting in a major credibility crisis for the paper.
For Blair, the lies began upon gaining an internship with the Times. He was able to move up in the paper’s ranks based on the false pretenses of completing college coursework and graduating from the University of Maryland. By the time he resigned on May 1, 2003, Blair had fabricated more than 40 stories that were published in the New York Times.
During his brief stint at the Times, Blair repeatedly lied about his news stories. His transgressions went beyond decieving editors and readers about small details, he went as far as to use quotes from people who had never been interviewed. Blair also filed stories from locations where he had never traveled and plagiarized accounts that were published by other news organizations.
Once news broke of Jayson Blair’s fabricated stories, the New York Times faced scrutiny as the public began to wonder why the newsroom failed to stop the problem in earlier stages. Ten days after Blair’s resignation, the Times ran an 18 page correction regarding their reporter’s lack of journalistic values.
Reporters have a responsibility to report truthfully and accurately, so it is important to understand how journalists feel about deception as an ethical problem. In 2002, members of a professional organization called Investigative Reporters and Editors conducted a survey questioning journalist’s thoughts of deception. The survey found that most journalists approved of lying if it would save a life or keep their sources safe and more experienced journalists were less likely to accept any form of deception.
While reporting on a story, each journalist should ask themselves where their journalistic and ethical values lie. Jayson Blair is an example of how deception in reporting has the potential of ruining the credibility of the media.