A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Ethics In-Brief

By Quill

The chairman emeritus of The Boston Globe recently created an award to recognize journalism that shows a commitment to fairness and responsibility. “The First Amendment guarantees a free press, but a free press must also be a responsible press, and that means a press that is fair to both individuals and institutions in the news,” William O. Taylor said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. “As journalists pursue the truth, they need to do so in a spirit of fairness.” The first Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers will be presented in 2002 for stories published in this year’s daily papers. A jury will look at nominations contributed from a panel of 31 journalists. According to the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, which will administer the award, the Taylor family raised $450,000 to endow an annual award of $10,000. MAGAZINE TAKES HEAT FOR SPONSORED COVER STORY
On the cover of the June 2001 issue of Nevada Woman was a profile of three top executives at Wells Fargo Nevada bank. While the subject matter of “Women of Wells Fargo” appeared straightforward, its reason for being wasn’t: The story was placed on the cover because Wells Fargo had paid for it. The magazine did not reveal anywhere in the issue that Wells Fargo had paid for its prominent coverage. News of the controversial deal was broken by lvcitylife.com, a Web site about Las Vegas. Nevada Woman’s chief executive and publisher told The New York Times that she had been selling the publication’s covers for a few years. “If opportunities arise that we can generate revenues off of our cover, for viable and interesting stories that benefit a company or charities as a promotional tool, then it helps me achieve my goal, which is basically to survive in this crazy business,” Paige P. Fleming told The Times on July 30. She added that she didn’t think it was necessary to inform readers about the sponsored covers. Nevada Woman, a 30,000-circulation magazine, is published bimonthly. Both Fleming and Lindsay Coghlan, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo Nevada, part of Wells Fargo & Company, would not reveal how much Wells Fargo paid Nevada Woman for the cover story. But Coghlan said her company had expected the sponsorship to be disclosed to the readers. NOT EVERYONE WANTS ‘TABLOID TV,’ SURVEY SAYS
Although the nation has been flooded with coverage of the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy, a nationwide news interest survey conducted in July by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press concluded that most Americans are not that interested in the story. The poll found that only 16 percent of Americans considered themselves “very interested” in the Levy story – a low number compared with the percentages of people highly interested in other celebrity scandals that Pew has polled about in the past. For example, the O. J. Simpson story had 48 percent of respondents “very interested” at its peak, and the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal had 36 percent. In an opinion column published in The New York Times in July, Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, suggested that the networks’ short-term tactics to raise viewership could backfire in the long term by turning off increasing numbers of people.