Commentary, analysis, & advice from the director of Poynter’s ethics program

The short shelf life of today’s heroes, in sports and in journalism

Michael Wilbon was on ESPN radio discussing Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o when he posed this rhetorical question: “What is the shelf life of a hero today?”

An excellent question: What is the shelf life of heroes in a world … Read more

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Thursday, Nov. 11, 2004

Decoding “Moral Values”

The “moral values” voter has become a popular way of identifying a segment of the population that played a key role in the re-election of President Bush. But who are these people? What “moral values” do they hold? How do their values play … Read more

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Monday, Oct. 25, 2004

Reporters Watch Candidates, Viewers Watch Reporters

As we enter the final week of election coverage, journalists might want to remember that while they watch the candidates, the public will be watching them. And what people see journalists saying, or doing, may affect how much credibility they … Read more

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Friday, Oct. 08, 2004

Private and Public: What Journalists Reveal About Themselves

Can a journalist be too truthful?


How much should the public know about what a journalist personally believes about what she or he reports on professionally?


What are the boundaries for a journalist when it comes to professional and personal … Read more

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Monday, Sep. 20, 2004

Charging Toward Controversy

Some controversial stories are like red capes, inciting journalists to charge toward them regardless of potential danger. I don’t know whether CBS News saw a flash of red in the documents about President George W. Bush’s National Guard service. But … Read more

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Thursday, Sep. 09, 2004

1,000 Dead: Journalism By the Numbers

Although many journalists profess a hatred for math, they love using numbers as a hook.


The military death totals in Iraq became the latest example of that attraction. On September 7, news organizations reported that the number had reached 1,000. … Read more

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Friday, Aug. 27, 2004

The Swift Boat Genre: A 9-Point Checklist

The Swift boat coverage reflects the heat-seeking political journalism that is so prevalent today. 


It contains all the elements we find in such stories:
 



  • Prominent political figure;

  •  Explosive allegations against the political figure’s integrity and credentials;

  •  Initially ignored, but
  • Read more
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Monday, Aug. 16, 2004

Dissecting Disasters

I stared at the line that appeared on one news channel after another, tracing the predicted path of Hurricane Charley. The red, curving line — filled with spinning circles — led right up to Tampa Bay, Fla., where I live. The news … Read more

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Friday, July 30, 2004

The Ethics of Silence

With the Democratic National Convention behind us, the Republican National Convention ahead of us, and the coverage of political races all around us, I hear a journalistic variation of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence playing in my Read more

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Moviegoer’s Guide to Ethics

Summer prompts writers to create reading lists.


My colleague, Chip Scanlan, offers a number of fascinating books we can enjoy in a recent column, which I’ve printed and plan to use.


I thought about making a similar reading list for books … Read more

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