Was The Daily Telegraph's undercover soccer exposé ethical?
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Sam Allardyce is now surprise frontrunner for the 2016 stupid celebrity award. But is he also a victim of overreach by reporters?
Who's Allardyce? He's a jowly veteran B-plus English soccer coach who for years craved and lobbied to coach the English national team. After England was humiliated by Iceland in the European championship this summer, he got his wish. Now he's out after a single game at the helm of a notoriously underachieving team of overrated, seven-figure athletes.
As part of a 10-month investigation, The Daily Telegraph conned him at meetings in both London and Manchester into agreeing to travel to Singapore and Hong Kong as "ambassador" for bogus "businessmen" claiming to represent represent a Far East firm. The businessmen made clear their aim to illegally exploit the lucrative soccer "transfer" market in which players are sold by one club to another. (The Daily Telegraph)
With a hidden camera rolling, the undercover reporters caught him bargaining a $500,000 deal for himself (his national team salary was $4 million) as he counseled them on what are known as player transfers. As soon as the story came out this week, he was out of the job he prized. Wednesday he claimed "entrapment has won."
Entrapment? For guidance, I turned to Jeffrey Seglin, an ethics and policy expert at Harvard's Kennedy School who used to write The New York Times' ethics column.
"Is it ethical to lie or use deception to get a story? No," Seglin said. "Is it still used sometimes to get a story? Of course. So the question lies with the news organizations and their reporters about how ethical they want to be in committing journalism."
Most media organizations believe that reporters should not misidentify themselves. But not all. The Brits may like doing it more often than American organizations, but there's a rich U.S. history of undercover reporting, even if there's not unanimity among editors.
I was with the Chicago Sun-Times in 1977-78 when it purchased and operated a tavern it named "The Mirage." It joined with the Better Government Association to expose corruption among city inspectors in a 25-part series secretly filmed by "60 Minutes." It was a stunning piece of work overseen by then-Sun-Times reporter Pam Zekman, subsequently (and still) an investigative mainstay at WBBM-TV in Chicago.
The ethical quandaries of undercover reporting surfaced in response to the Mirage series. The paper was shafted out of a clearly deserved Pulitzer Prize because board member Ben Bradlee, editor of The Washington Post, argued that unjustifiable deception was at the heart of the series.
Roy Greenslade, a media critic of the competitor Guardian, supports The Daily Telegraph's sting. "There is a clear public interest justification in knowing that a man employed by the Football Association is offering advice on how to circumvent its rules," writes Greenslade, a journalism professor in London and former editor of the Daily Mirror. (The Guardian)
Well, Allardyce might at least hope that Bradlee were still alive — and running the FA, the governing body of British soccer which showed him the exit. Presumably, he'd have more sympathy.
The tensions spawned by "Hamilton's" largesse
The Broadway cast of "Hamilton" was bestowed a retroactive 1 percent of net profits, plus a share from future productions. The deal was a magnanimous stunner, especially as the show earned $500,000 a week.
The actors' union was besieged with demands by members who felt they merited similar deals for labor in other shows. "The Hamilton victory was a bell that could not be unrung." (Bloomberg)
Putin's debate pick
It's unfortunate we didn't have any Fox News post-debate focus group of uncommitted voters in Novosibirsk, Russia. I assume no Russian dictator has won the election without winning Novosibirsk.
From Foreign Policy magazine: "A record number of Americans tuned in to watch the first U.S. presidential debate on Monday night, but someone else was watching, too: the Kremlin media machine. It was the middle of the night in Russia, but the tweets kept coming, making it clear, as always, whose side the Kremlin is on in this election. (Foreign Policy)
Stop and frisk
The Wall Street Journal felt that Trump's much-derided debate comments on stop-and-frisk were correct. (The Wall Street Journal) It suggests that the general media sense that Lester Holt was doing good fact-checking on Trump in real-time is off base, given the history of the litigation.
How many Facebook attorneys you need to screw in a light bulb?
"Days after a judge chastised a law firm representing Facebook Inc. for sending only a junior associate to court in a case alleging the company doesn't do enough to deter terrorists, a team of five attorneys was dispatched to apologize." (Bloomberg)
And what did the firm charge Mark Zuckerberg for this belated mass labor? Thank goodness they didn't send six lawyers.
The morning chatter
As usual, "Fox & Friends" opened with its morning homage to Donald Trump, going to Trump Tower in New York City where we had John Roberts, who's positioned there nearly as often as the doormen finishing the late shift.
On CNN there was dismissal of the methodology of pro-Trump post-debate online surveys, notably on The Drudge Report. But, "Here's the good news for Donald Trump today," said "New Day's" Chris Cuomo: "He ain't Gary Johnson." CNN then played a disastrous moment last night with Johnson unable to give MSNBC's Chris Matthews the name of a single world leader he respects. "I guess I'm having an Aleppo movement," Johnson said.
Meanwhile, a solid CNN town hall with President Obama hosted by Jake Tapper got scant mention. It's the unavoidable slouching toward Media ADHD amid a campaign to pick his successor.
A needed reminder
Thursday brings another congressional grilling of John Stumpf, the boss of Wells Fargo, on the fiasco at the bank that's prompted canning lots of small potatoes but virtually no admission of his own accountability.
So one can thank The New York Times' Gretchen Morgenson for a column that zeroes in — in ways that most financial journalism rarely does — on the ignominious role of the bank's board, whose 15 members last year each earned between $279,000 to $402,000 for merely showing at board and related committee meetings. It's the grossest form of pinstriped patronage. (The New York Times)
Laura's Bush's dresses
Remember Imelda Marcos' shoe collection? Well, thanks to Political Edit's Kate Bennett for noting Washington Business Journal reporter Andy Medici's piece on moving a president out of the White House. JK Moving Services founder Chuck Kuhn has moved the last three presidents and, alas, it took "four days with four movers to pack the George W. Bush White House."
"Most of that time was spent preserving the massive gown collection Laura Bush had accumulated in acid-free paper. Though most of Mrs. Bush's gowns" were elegant, they "were so stiff with taffeta they could probably stand up on their own." (Washington Business Journal)
Trump, Cuba, CNN, Newsweek
Kurt Eichenwald, a Vanity Fair contributor and former New York Times investigative reporter, used CNN this morning to detail his latest Newsweek opus: "A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings." (Newsweek)
Teens on the beat
Samantha Silva, 17, "is not your average reporter, and her publication, the Boyle Heights Beat, is not your average media outlet. Published in a bilingual format online and quarterly in print, the Beat covers Boyle Heights, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of about 90,000 people in East Los Angeles. But in important ways, the Beat is produced by Boyle Heights, too: Most of the reporting comes from high school students like Silva, who live or go to school in the neighborhood and are mentored by veteran journalists." (Columbia Journalism Review)
Sports reporters, take note
A federal appeals court in Chicago has reversed a lower court ruling that had supported the pro soccer players union. (U.S. Courts) The union didn't like a U.S. Soccer Federation's proposed advertisement for el Jimador, which the court describes as "a popular mid-shelf tequila brand."
"The present case kicked off" (get it, kicked off?) in 2013 and involves whether the federation needed union approval "for use of player likenesses for six or more players in print creative advertisements by sponsors, based on the express terms of the (union) agreement."
Well, "Crying foul" (get that?), the union filed a grievance, won in arbitration and at a lower court. Now the appeals panel reverses it in favor of the federation. I only wish the trio celebrated its handiwork with a bottle of, say, top-shelf Gran Patron Platinum Silver (about $200 a bottle).
A reporter's lament and cry for help
"Help us win the fight for the Reader: its bold writing must be saved" is the headline on a cri de coeur by Ben Joravsky, longtime stalwart reporter for The Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly bastion whose economics seem headed unalterably south as part of the print implosion (I am a former Reader publisher). Writing "on behalf of the Chicago News Guild bargaining unit" in negotiations with owner Wrapports, he says:
"Despite that much-appreciated editorial independence, the Reader is at a crossroads under the Wrapports regime — our very existence is threatened. The Reader’s story during the Wrapports years has two recurring themes: editorial achievement and a baffling pullback of business operations. We need investment so the Reader doesn’t die of malnourishment."
Jim Kirk, a friend of mine who is editor-publisher of the Sun-Times, says, "We have been upfront throughout our discussions with the Guild on a new contract. We believe that direct talk between management and the Guild leadership is more productive than negotiation through the media. The Reader remains a valuable source of news and information in Chicago. We deeply value the writers and columnists who contribute great content on a daily basis. And we remain confident that we can negotiate a reasonable new contract with the Guild leadership."
Understanding drug company B.S.
STAT, the new site on the biomedical world, concedes "the business of medicine can be brilliant and exciting," but it can be "riddled with drug company shenanigans." Its podcast, "Signal," dissects "the tricky, creative tactics" used to shaft competition and maintain monopolies. You can listen to the episode with reporters Luke Timmerman and Meg Tirrell here.
And a handy-dandy chart on Clinton-Trump tax plans
"How Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would tax the 1 percent, in one chart: The super-rich would fork over billions more under Clinton’s plans, and billions less under Trump’s." (Vox)