Monday, November 25, 2013

Pop Quiz | Takes this ethics test off today's news

Consider these two scenarios and then answer the questions below.

No. 1
A Gannett TV anchor planning to interview a police officer as an expert on door-to-door consumer scams sends the cop a rough script outlining the story's key points to make sure the officer can comment appropriately on the key points.

No. 2
A Gannett newspaper reporter planning to interview an expert on door-to-door consumer scams sends a query to the public relations service ProfNet, outlining the key points to make sure respondents can address the story's subject appropriately.

Ultimately in both cases, the experts address the story's subject directly, supplying basically the same quotes and same information.

One of these scenarios is real, and the other one is made up for the sake of comparison. Questions:
  • Are these scenarios fundamentally different? How?
  • Are there any ethical implications about prepping expert sources this way?
  • Under what other circumstances would this violate journalism ethical standards?
Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Yawn. Slow news day Jimmy?

    1. Good post, Jim.

    2. Romenesko also thought it was worth mentioning:

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Reporters at my publication site often do interviews by sending questions in an email and waiting hours, sometimes more than a day, for the emailed answers, without the story revealing this. Editors are fine with it.

  4. Standards continue to fall, along with the experience level of assorted staffs. Doesnt seem to matter to anyone. At places like the Times, or network TV, quality remains relatively high. but what happens to the overall quality of journalism if this continues?

  5. Hey - Gannett needs coin! Sell your mother.


  6. Difference is the cop has handcuffs, mace and a gun and you don't want to blindside him with a question that will piss him off and cause him to use one of those items on the reporter.


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