Posted by: kklist | January 31, 2018

Political Reporters Under Attack

Good Morning, Ethics!

Today’s Times includes this article on attacks on political reporters “in the age of Trump,” including death threats. Th piece relates directly to our discussion in class this morning.

See you soon!



Posted by: kklist | December 11, 2017

High Cost of Journalists’ Mistakes Under Trump

Hiya Ethics!

We discussed this issue earlier in the semester, but check this summery of the past week from Poynter’s Jim Warren this morning:

Axios’ Mike Allen on the totality of a bad week
“Three media screw-ups in eight days on one investigation,” says Allen. “The bad week for big news has President Trump feeling that he has moved the ‘fake news’ argument from the fringe to the conservative mainstream, according to close Trump associates.”

“Why it matters: The mistakes — ABC’s Brian Ross on Michael Flynn’s plea, financial outlets on a Mueller subpoena of bank records, and CNN on an email about WikiLeaks — give Trump fodder for one of his favorite, and most damaging, tropes.”

“His argument isn’t broadly true: Most reporters work hard to be fair and accurate. And national outlets have risen to this historic era with unprecedented resources and consequential journalism. But, but, but: The foil helps Trump keep his rock-solid base, despite his broad unpopularity. Based on past performance, look for POTUS to amp up his mocking.”

“A source close to the White House told me: ‘He just hammers something into submission, whatever it may be. … With the media, he just wears it down, wears it down, then somebody slips and makes a mistake.'”

The truth is: the media always make mistakes. In good faith, they correct those mistakes. Because President Trump “weaponizes” the errors, they become a much bigger part of the public discourse than they otherwise would be.

Hope to see you tomorrow to talk about interviews in our last class—despite the snow!



Posted by: kklist | December 7, 2017

Ethics Thursday

Hiya Ethics,

In Thursday’s class we’ll talk briefly about the photos you looked at yesterday, and then I’ll ask about half of you to share with us the most interesting or significant thing you learned from the journalist you interviewed. We’ll focus first on local journalists. That means comments from: Alex, Reagan, Kyle, Davone, Serena, Chelsey, Shelby, Haley and Fazia. We’ll also do some team work on Deception.

And for your viewing pleasure over break, you might want to bookmark this Times Talks on “Uncovering Sexual Harassment,” featuring Ashley Judd, who first went public against Harvey Weinstein, and Times reporters Emily Steel, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who’ve broken stories on Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly. Poynter says:

It was a window into basic and precise journalism on the most sensitive of topics, ultimately raising the key questions of potential impact. For those who don’t get the way quality reporters and editors work, this could serve as a quickie primer. For those in the business, it offered tips on dealing with victims of this sort, including the utter necessity of getting out of the office and meeting people face to face.

See you Thursday!



Posted by: kklist | December 4, 2017

Karen’s Monday Hours

Hiya Ethics,

I’ll be in the office from noon to 1:30 Monday—and you can always email me questions about your final essays. I had to switch up my office time because of late-afternoon meetings.

In Tuesday’s class, we’ll start with a Deception exercise, then discuss the ethics of Photojournalism.

See you then!



Posted by: kklist | November 29, 2017

A Different Kind of Decpetion

Hiya Ethics,

On Thursday, we’ll talk about under what circumstances the media can use deceptive tactics in the pursuit of truth.

But a different kind of deception has been in the news the past few days—specifically Project Veritas attempting to trick journalists into reporting false information.

From Columbia Journalism Review:

Yesterday afternoon, The Washington Post’s Shawn Boburg, Aaron C. Davis, and Alice Crites revealed, in painstaking detail, how a woman working for James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas had attempted to mislead reporters into printing the false accusation that she had an abortion at age 15 after Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore impregnated her. O’Keefe’s bumbling operative was exposed on camera by Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen, who showed up to their meeting with receipts in the form of a GoFundMe page the woman had created in which she claimed she had “accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt [sic] of the liberal MSM.”

These are the same people responsible for the fake calls to women in Alabama—ostensibly from a Washington Post reporter seeking dirt on Moore, for which the paper would pay. I emailed you that story right before Thanksgiving, pointing out that the Post would never pay for news.

The moral of this story is that Project Veritas’s deceit was caught by the Post’s first-rate reporting. May that always be so!



Posted by: kklist | November 28, 2017

Times Bombs Nazi Profile

Hello Again, Ethics!

Check this Erik Wemple column from the Washington Post on the hostile reaction to a “half-baked” Times profile of Nazi Eric Hovater. Here’s one of hundreds of tweets in response to the piece:

“Let me explain to some of you why this is trash & why the NYTs needs more people of color at the decision making table: 1st this is “reporting” on something that IS NOT FREAKING NORMAL, but the profile in & of it self, normalizes white nationalism.”

Wemple says the Times was its own first critic:

Yet the New York Times itself beat its critics to the story about the profile’s shortcomings. In the Times Insider section — a place where reporters write about their stories — Fausset acknowledged a “hole at the heart” of the story on Hovater. After the first draft of his piece, Fausset noted, his editor cited a omission: What had prompted Hovater to “take his ideas beyond his living room, beyond the chat rooms, and on to Charlottesville, where he marched in August alongside allies like the neo-Confederate League of the South and the Detroit-based National Socialist Movement, which bills itself as ‘America’s Premier White Civil Rights Organization’?

Wemple suggests the reporter should have interviewed multiple sources when he failed to get the answer to that question. And if he still didn’t succeed, the story should have been spiked.



Posted by: kklist | November 27, 2017

Protect Your Sources!

Hiya Ethics!

And welcome back to our last few classes. Today’s Times features an article on an independent Chicago journalist subpoenaed to reveal his sources. This story about Jamie Kalven focuses on protecting sources, which we discussed several weeks ago.

Briefly, Kalven’s reporting questioned the official police version of the killing of Laquan McDonald, 17, in 2014 and revealed the existence of a police dashboard camera video that showed McDonald being shot 16 times.

Three years later, Mr. Kalven finds himself forced back into the case, subpoenaed by lawyers for the police officer, Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with first-degree murder in Mr. McDonald’s death.

He has been called to appear next month at a pretrial court hearing in which Mr. Van Dyke’s lawyers are seeking to learn the source of the information that Mr. Kalven published about the shooting long before the video was made public.

The story continues:

Mr. Kalven said in an interview that he is willing to testify — but not about his sources of information. “The one thing that I’m clear about is that I’m not revealing my sources,” said Mr. Kalven.

And look at the impact Kalven’s reporting already has had:

The investigation into Mr. McDonald’s death upended Chicago. The police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy, lost his job. So did the head of the Independent Police Review Authority. The mayor, Rahm Emanuel, refused to step down despite calls for his resignation and nightly demonstrations in the city. Anita Alvarez, the state’s attorney for Cook County, lost her re-election bid. The Justice Department opened an investigation into possible civil rights abuses by the Chicago Police Department.

It’s a good time to be reminded that good, ethical journalists like Kalven are out there doing their jobs every day.

Looking forward to Tuesday’s discussion of Privacy!



Posted by: kklist | November 26, 2017

Final Ethics Essay Due Dec. 5

Hiya Ethics,

Several of you have contacted me because I missed a terrible typo on your final assignment—and it’s the due date! Your final essay is due in class on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

We’ll talk about the assignment again in class this week. You can ask questions about your interviews, and I’ll give you some tips on writing the essay. I’ll also have some special office hours near the due date if you want me to check a page or two of your papers to make sure you’re on the right track.

Hope you’re having a great holiday. Almost two days left!



Posted by: kklist | November 15, 2017

Leakers and Shield Laws

Hiya Ethics,

Remember when we talked last week about the fact that reputable news outlets do not pay for news? That would be a conflict of interest because those being paid might be more interested in the money than in the truth. So check this.

As I’m sure you know, the Washington Post reported last week that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore pursued under-age girls when he was in his 30s. The media are reporting today that fake phone calls to Alabama residents are suggesting that the Post is willing to pay women for more such stories. From today’s Post:

An Alabama pastor named Al Moore — no relation to the candidate — received a voice mail Tuesday from “Bernie Bernstein,” who identified himself as a Post reporter and said he was looking for women “between the ages of 54 to 57 years old willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000.” The voice mail, which showed up on caller ID as a “private number,” concluded with a phony email address purportedly at The Post.

Al Moore said he could tell right away that the call was fake. He let a local TV station know about the call because “it’s important that we let the public know how ugly this thing has gotten.”

Unbelievable! This is a despicable campaign tactic, but we in Journalism Ethics KNOW it’s fake because the Post would never pay for news!

When we come back after Thanksgiving, we’ll talk about the interview you did today with Eric Bosco. Check your notes to see if you covered all the bases: fairness, sources, diversity, conflict of interest and privacy.

I’ll be in the office from 1-2:30 tomorrow if you want to talk with me. Have a great Thanksgiving week!



Posted by: kklist | November 14, 2017


Hiya Ethics,

Here is what’s happening in our next two classes.

THURSDAY: You, as a class will interview Eric Bosco, just as you will interview the working journalist you’ve chosen. Read the email I sent you about Eric, along with his two stories that are linked. COME TO CLASS WITH FOUR TYPED QUESTIONS—specific to the articles. You’ll submit those to me before you leave class for 10 points. This will be great practice for you for an assignment that’s worth 30% of your grade. And Eric is another terrific journalist. Here is a digital copy of your interview assignment: Journ Interview


TUESDAY, NOV. 28TH: We’ll circle back and discuss the Fitts/Pring and Wallace articles from Conflict of Interest about if/when journalists should become participants in–as opposed to observers of–a news story. And we’ll also discuss all the Privacy articles.

I’ll email each of you tonight with your scores to date so you’ll know where you stand in class, as well as the number of your absences. If you missed class today, I’ll send you the links to the videos we watched in class. Please be advised that once you have 3-4 absences, you’re grade can drop by a letter.

See you Thursday!



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