A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Ethics – In-brief

By Quill

Story of Gannon/Guckert raises ethical questions

Charlie Savage and Alan Wirzbicki first reported on Feb. 2 in the Boston Globe about the questionable journalistic credentials of former Talon news reporter Jeff Gannon, whose news organization allegedly was backed by a conservative Web site, GOPUSA.com.

That same day, Joe Strupp reported in Editor and Publisher that Gannon was turned down in a previous request for Capitol Hill credentials and then quoted him, in response to questions about his journalistic integrity, as stating, “I write a news story, I post it, and anything having to do with GOPUSA, I don’t know about. I’m not the 60 Minutes producer with the Kerry campaign on speed dial.”

By Feb. 10, Editor and Publisher had reported that “Jeff Gannon” was a pseudonym and that “Gannon” was really James Guckert. E&P also reported on Guckert’s links to homosexual prostitution Web sites and quoted current and former White House correspondents who questioned how Guckert was allowed a White House press pass for nearly two years. E&P also noted that blogs were the first entities to break the story on Gannon/Guckert.

Talon News goes dark, ‘Gannon’ back online

By Feb. 25, Talon News, the entity that employed “Jeff Gannon” as a journalist to cover the White House, had shut down. On its home page, www.talonnews.com, the proprietors stated they felt “compelled to re-evaluate operations” after all of the recent media attention they received and were thus undergoing a fundamental redesign.

“Jeff Gannon” (who’s real name is James Guckert) has returned to the blogging scene at www.jeffgannon.com. The page is dubbed “Jeff Gannon: A Voice of the New Media” and contains a subheadline stating, “So feared by the Left it had to take me down.”

Gannon confronted some of the issues recently concerning him but claimed not to be able to address the ones dealing with his “personal life” due to instructions from his attorneys. Gannon also stated that blogs are providing him with the unbiased, unfiltered medium that the “old media” will not and claims to be granting interviews to both conservative and liberal bloggers, according to jeffgannon.com.

‘Gannon’ saga prompts credential questions

The story of White House reporter “Jeff Gannon” has raised new questions of how credentials should be given for White House press briefings, Joe Strupp reported in Editor and Publisher on Feb. 15.

E&P noted that the “Gannon” ordeal had prompted a meeting between Bush administration press secretary Scott McClellan and White House Correspondents’ Association President Ron Hutcheson. At that point, neither wanted any immediate changes, and E&P quoted Hutcheson as saying, “I’m not comfortable in passing judgment on who is a journalist and who isn’t. My overriding view is that if I am going to make a mistake, it is going to be on letting people in rather than keeping people out.”

By Feb. 28, E&P had reported that the WHCA had announced it would not be pursuing changes to the credentialing process despite complaints from some of its members regarding the Gannon affair. On that day, E&P reported Hutcheson as expressing the group’s opinion that, “The board felt like none of us were happy about Gannon being in the briefing room, but we all view it as the price we pay for a system that favors inclusion over keeping someone out. While not perfect, (the current system) is geared toward letting people in.”

Schwarzenegger’s news video draws criticism

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s release of a news-style video promoting his administration’s labor policies has provoked a backlash of criticism, Mark Martin reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 1.

Democratic Assemblyman Paul Koretz claimed the video was propaganda designed to manipulate both the media and the public. Koretz was quoted as stating, “We all know Governor Schwarzenegger is good at making movies; it appears that talent has carried over to government work.”

Administration officials defended the video as typical of government news releases and stated that it was up to television stations to use how they wished, according to Martin.

Martin also noted that Koretz was seeking to determine if the Governor’s office had broken any laws with the video and that Koretz also connected Schwarzenegger’s behavior to the recent public relations scandals that have plagued President Bush.

Bill would punish those paid for propaganda

Journalists who are put on the government payroll and don’t reveal it could possibly be imprisoned if legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., is passed, Jackie Kucinich reported in The Hill on Feb. 16.

Keller stated that there was currently no way to punish journalists promoting government views and that he expected the bill to be widely supported and pass easily, Kucinich noted.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, was quoted as saying that the bill “doesn’t even strike me as being close to constitutional. If you are trying to prevent this behavior, make it illegal for a government official to hire a journalist. It may be unseemly to hire a journalist, but it is not illegal.”

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