"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Sunday, May 09, 2004

"Don't be a piano player in a whorehouse"
Too right Mr. Carroll! This is what I'm always on about when I complain about work

Esteemed journalist lectures on ethics
L.A. Times Editor John Carroll spoke about journalism ethics and pseudo-journalism at the Gerlinger Lounge on Thursday.

May 07, 2004

The media industry has been infested by the rise of pseudo-journalists who go against journalism's long tradition to serve the public with accurate information, Los Angeles Times Editor John S. Carroll told a packed room in the Gerlinger Lounge on Thursday.
Carroll delivered the annual Ruhl Lecture, titled "The Wolf in Reporter's Clothing: The Rise of Pseudo-Journalism in America." The lecture was sponsored by the School of Journalism and Communication.

"All over the country there are offices that look like newsrooms and there are people in those offices that look for all the world just like journalists, but they are not practicing journalism," he said. "They regard the audience with a cold cynicism. They are practicing something I call a pseudo-journalism, and they view their audience as something to be manipulated."

In a scathing critique of Fox News and some talk show hosts, such as Bill O'Reilly, Carroll said they were a "different breed of journalists" who misled their audience while claiming to inform them. He said they did not fit into the long legacy of journalists who got their facts right and respected and cared for their audiences.

Carroll cited a study released last year that showed Americans had three main
misconceptions about Iraq: That weapons of mass destruction had been found, a connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq had been demonstrated and that the world approved of U.S intervention in Iraq. He said 80 percent of people who primarily got their news from Fox believed at least one of the misconceptions. He said the figure was more than 57 percentage points higher than people who get their news from public news broadcasting.

"How in the world could Fox have left its listeners so deeply in the dark?" Carroll asked.

He added that a difference exists between journalism and propaganda.

As he addressed some of the hard hits journalism has taken in the field of ethics, Carroll noted that anyone could be a journalist because, unlike other fields, journalism had no qualification tests, boards to censure misconduct or a universally accepted set of standards.

However, Carroll said a great depth of feeling remains on the importance of ethics that is centered around newspapers' sense of responsibilities to their readers.

"I've learned that these ethics are deeply believed in even though in some places they are not even written down," he said. When ethical guidelines are ignored, their proponents respond with 'tribal ferocity,'" he added.

"If you stray badly from these rules, you will pay dearly," he said.

He said while much media has ended up "in the gutter," the L.A. Times has a different philosophy and was dedicated to taking the "high road."

"I do think that a lot of newspaper people have made a lot of strategic mistakes," he said. "They cut back space on things people really need to know."

Carroll, whose career as a journalist spans 40 years, joined the L.A. Times in 2000, according to the paper's Web site. Under his leadership, the paper earned five Pulitzer Prizes this year.

Tim Gleason, dean of the SOJC, said Carroll is a "journalist's journalist."

"As an editor he cares deeply about the integrity of the profession and he believes that news, real news is the heart and soul of the business of journalism," Gleason said as he introduced Carroll.

University graduate student Mose Mosely had similar sentiments. He said he admired Carroll not only for his vast experience around the country, but also for his consistent commitment to his ideals.

"The depth of his integrity is very impressive," Mosely said.

Bobbie Willis, a staff writer for the Eugene Weekly, said she felt Carroll brought up some relevant issues in today's media environment.

"It really made me take a look at my career as a journalist," she said.

Willis said she understood Carroll's concerns about the state of journalism nationally, but added that many of the journalists she has encountered were very committed to accurate and ethical reporting.

Carroll had a few words of advise for student journalists; he told them to pick their boss carefully.

"Don't be lured by the money or the big name of the employer," he said, adding that journalists should not allow their integrity to be compromised by unscrupulous employers.

"Don't be a piano player in a whorehouse," he said.