Monthly Archives: June 2010

Brave or stupid?

You make the call!

AP photographer Rich Matthews plunges into coverage of the Gulf oil spill. This takes coverage of the oil business from the era of Ida Tarbell to the era of I Dodge Tar Balls.

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Reckless? Pointless?

By Chris Daly

In today’s NY Times, there is a story about the arrest of two suspected terrorists that contains a troubling paragraph. (It was the 15th graf in the version I read on-line.)

A law enforcement official said the undercover officer who made the secret recordings was in his 20s and was a five-year police veteran of Egyptian descent.

The troubling thing about this paragraph is that it presents apparently gratuitous details about an undercover agent. Readers can learn the following:

–the undercover officer is “in his 20s”

–the undercover offices has worked for NYPD for five years,

–the undercover officer is “of Egyptian descent.”

To those in the know, this much information is probably more than enough to identify this person. This much information could readily compromise this investigation or other investigations that this undercover officer is involved in.

The question: WHY?

This information is of zero value to the average reader. There is no indication that this undercover officer has done something wrong or anything of the kind of misconduct that might possibly justify “outing” the agent.

So, what was the point? Why did the anonymous “law enforcement official” pass that information along to the Times? Why did the reporter put it in the story? Why did several editors let it get out to the public?

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Journalism Myths

Great discussion today on NPR’s show “On Point” about myths that have grown up in the history of journalism. The guest was the estimable Prof. W. Joseph Campbell, talking about his book, “Getting it Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism.”

Have a listen.

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Filed under history, Journalism