A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Ethics In-Brief

By Quill

Harris proposes panel to review profits vs. ideals

Jay Harris, a 16-year Knight Ridder executive who resigned in February to protest Knight Ridder’s recent editorial cutbacks, has proposed a blue-ribbon panel to take a closer look at what he perceives to be a power struggle between profits and quality journalism. “We should never accept the notion that unfettered market forces will produce the best results,” Harris told journalists and academics at a Harvard Faculty Club dinner in mid-May, according to Editor & Publisher. “In journalism, the heart of the enterprise is human capital – primarily journalists.” Harris said he drew his inspiration in part from the 1947 Hutchens Commission on Freedom of the Press, which ultimately spawned the social responsibility theory of the press. Many of its recommendations have been included in codes of journalism ethics. Harris said a similar group – made up of former politicians, university presidents and journalism executives – could suggest steps for the media to take in order to better serve their readers. “Newspaper companies can’t produce an increasing level of profits without cutting more and more out of the organization,” he said later, according to Editor & Publisher. “They need to be re-positioned in the public marketplace.” Noting Knight Ridder’s recent claim that top-tier financial performance is not incompatible with top-tier journalism, Harris said that if profits come not from growth but by cutting “the means that produce first-rate journalism, they are incompatible. Newspapers are a trust, not just a business.” Sony apologizes to paper for fake movie critic

After Newsweek broke the story, Sony Pictures disclosed in early June that it was responsible for inventing a film reviewer and using his fabricated comments on Sony movie advertisements appearing in The Ridgefield (Conn.) Press. Sony said that a film advertising executive created “David Manning,” who supposedly wrote movie reviews for the Ridgefield (Conn.) Press. The fictional reviewer praised Sony’s “A Knight’s Tale,” “Hollow Man,” “Vertical Limit” and Sony-distributed “The Animal.” Sony said it is working to find out who is responsible. Tom Nash, publisher of The Ridgefield (Conn.) Press, told Mediaweek that Jeff Blake, Sony’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution, had called him to apologize. Paper dismisses reporter for plagiarism

Veteran high school sports writer and columnist Ed Glennon was dismissed from the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star on May 25 after Glennon admitted to lifting quotes from a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune without giving proper attribution. The unattributed quotes, published March 9 in the Rockford Register Star, were part of a story about Guilford High School basketball star Aaron Robinson’s efforts to succeed despite the recent deaths of his parents. The story won a Gannett award for sports writing, which has since been withdrawn. Gannett Co. Inc., owns the Rockford Register Star. Robinson’s quotes in the Rockford Register Star story were exactly the same as the quotes in a Star Tribune story published on Nov. 9, 2000. “I stand by the quotations and the process I took to obtain them,” Glennon, who has hired legal counsel, told the Rockford Register Star. “I have the quotations in my notes, and the words spoken to me were the same as in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. What this proves is that no matter the hard work, integrity, awards and recognition I have brought the Register Star in 10-plus years of covering prep sports, it carries no weight in gaining loyalty when someone chooses to make an accusation.” County officials accused of steering ads to paper

Critics of a Pennsylvania newspaper say that a county’s advertising clout has tilted coverage of county government and wasted taxpayers’ money. In Luzerne County, Pa., majority Democratic commissioners have spent more than $1.5 million on advertising in The Citizen’s Voice, the county’s second-largest daily. Last year alone, the county spent at least $324,501 with The Voice, nearly three times the ad revenue taken in by the county’s two other daily papers combined. Majority Commissioners Tom Makowski and Tom Pizano have turned down requests for competitive bidding, which could save the county about 43 percent on some types of ads. Makowski has also turned down invitations to meet with The Times Leader representatives, who have offered classified advertising to the county at 82 cents per line. Meanwhile, the county paid $1.45 per line to The Voice in 2000.