A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


By Quill

CNN, CBS paid for Al Qaeda video

CNN and CBS both paid for videotapes that showed Al Qaeda conducting poison-gas experiments. CNN anchor Aaron Brown admitted that his news group paid about $30,000 for a video that was one of 64 taken from Afghanistan; CBS has not revealed the amount of money it paid for a very similar video.

Both groups say they ensured the information was legitimate but refused to say more for fear that their employees in Afghanistan could be put at risk. CNN originally denied that it had paid for the tapes, but later said internal miscommunication had caused the error, and that the organization had paid a “modest amount” for the tapes.

The tapes have been deemed as helpful by Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House’s Office of Homeland Security, as propaganda for anti-terrorism government efforts. The only images shown repeatedly by CNN were of dogs being poisoned with gas and training operations.

Salt Lake paper endorses political candidates

The Salt Lake Tribune will again endorse political candidates in its editorial pages, a tactic the paper hasn’t used since Nixon’s presidency. The largest newspaper in Utah, the Tribune has decided to support candidates in three congressional and one state race in an attempt to show legislative gerrymandering.

The decision to endorse candidates came with new owners when the paper was bought by MediaNews Group Inc. of Denver. Most of the group’s 49 dailies endorse candidates.

Chief executive Dean Singleton, who is now publisher of the Tribune, said this is a way of educating voters. The only other dailies in Utah that make such editorial endorsements are The Spectrum of St. George and The Herald Journal of Logan.

The decision whether to endorse, and whom to endorse, is a very sensitive issue for many executives. Many feel strongly that it is a duty to endorse, while many others feel just as deeply that they should not editorialize for a candidate. Jim Naughton, president of the Poynter Institute, said that more U.S. papers probably make political endorsements than do not.

Reporters sneak weapons onto planes

Investigative reporters in both America and Great Britain were able to smuggle weapons – including small knives, pepper spray and meat cleavers – onto airplanes after going through routine checkpoints designed to stop such potential threats. During Labor Day weekend, reporters from the Daily News in New York made their way through 11 U.S. airport with corkscrews, razor blades and utility knives. CBS News crews, during the previous week, took bags lined with lead through checkpoints, and got past about 70 percent of screens.

“They’re impossible to miss, and yet they just continually let it go,” said Steve Elson, who used to check security for the Federal Aviation Administration and helped with the CBS investigation. According to reporters from the Daily News, their bags were X-rayed and searched by hand, shoes were removed and photo identifications checked, but the weapons were not found.

The four airports that terrorists went through to board flights on Sept. 11 – Newark International, Boston’s Logan International, Washington Dulles International and Portland International Jetport in Maine – were included in the test, as were New York’s La Guardia and Kennedy airports, Chicago’s O’Hare, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Santa Barbara, Calif.

In Britain, a reporter from The People managed to get onboard a domestic flight with a steel meat clever and 4-inch dagger.

Both the U.S. and British examples have raised great ethical concerns among the public and within the journalism community about whether journalists are justified in breaking laws to expose weaknesses. The airline industry’s largest trade group, The Air Transport Association, believes reporters who test security should be prosecuted because they have broken federal law by taking prohibited items onboard planes.

SPJ’s Code of Ethics doesn’t address law violations, although it does advise that any undercover measures not be taken if there is another way to get a story of great public interest.

Wired students prefer campus news on paper

College students, who usually have easy access to the Internet, are still more interested in the paper versions of their campus papers than they are in the electronic versions.

This may be why most student newspapers have focused on the print edition than an online counterpart. While no studies have specifically focused on how many college papers have found their way onto the Web, one national study, put out last spring by market research firm Student Monitor, concluded that only 30 percent of students said their papers were online, in comparison to 27 percent the year before.

Among those who were aware of their online paper, only 29 percent had ventured there even once in the previous month. 44 percent had read three of the previous five printed issues or more in the same time period.

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