A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Letters to the editor

By Quill

Matthew Cooper should resign

To the Editor:

As a reporter who was shot at, beaten, held in contempt of court and sentenced to jail for protecting confidential sources, I am both encouraged and sickened by the Miller/Cooper affair.

On the one hand, Miller stood firm, was true to ethics and morals in her refusal to turn on her sources and deal with the consequences. As brave as Miller has been, Cooper has been nothing short of a coward and a disgrace to the profession. That questionable “11th hour” release from the source is no release from journalistic obligation or integrity. Once you enter the expressway of confidentiality, there is no off ramp.

To the degree that Miller strengthens confidence and conviction, ethics and responsibility, Cooper undermines it.

For the first time in this whole ordeal, Cooper should do the right thing – RESIGN.

Bob Arya

Anchor, reporter in Chicago

Editor wrong to attack journalism schools

To the Editor:

Editor Joe Skeel’s heavy-handed attack on journalism education in the August issue of Quill proves one thing: He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His column is made up of one unfounded opinion after another. Maybe Joe ought to go back to school for a course in investigative reporting.

For example, he suggests that J-schools should make courses secondary to internships and work on student publications. That flies in the face of my experience, where I spent half my career as a daily newspaper editor and half as a journalism professor.

The many good journalism schools we have offer solid professional training. My school at the University of Oregon uses active professionals to teach professional courses. On the other hand, many internships and student publications often are unsupervised.

When I started out in the 1950s, only a small minority of journalists had journalism degrees. Today, it’s a large majority, and in my opinion, the work of today’s journalists is superior to what we had in the 1950s.

As a member of SPJ since 1950, I’ve watched both the media world and the world of academic journalism grow closer together. It’s a productive marriage and deserves everyone’s support.

One of the big problems today is that fewer students are attracted to news careers. One reason: low starting salaries. Maybe Skeel should start hounding editors and publishers to overcome that handicap.

Arnold Ismach

Eugene, Ore.

Editor right to blame journalism schools

To the Editor:

I have to point the finger, as you have, at our journalism schools.

I have run a community weekly for 19 years. I have offered college-level internships and high school internships. (My current high school intern is typing at the next desk as we speak.) I have trained a handful of young graduates, who arrived with journalism degrees. They’re great young people, but they don’t seem to have ever learned to use the AP Stylebook. I serve as a vice president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, so I’m active in the industry. I hear similar comments from publishers statewide.

Never have I had a college professor show one bit of interest in what we were doing at our paper. The times I have contacted college journalism programs in Minnesota, my efforts have been met with apathy, at best. Wisconsin’s Newspaper Association has tried to improve relationships with colleges in that state by hiring a super-enthusiastic former publisher to visit campuses statewide. The goal has been to build partnerships with J-schools. It’s a laudable program, but, I’m guessing that, without his work, the universities and colleges would have never mounted a similar program.

If that effort can’t build strong ties between industry and academia, then give it up as a lost cause.

Tom van der Linden

Editor and Co-publisher

Houston County News

Public’s Need to know is not life and death

To the Editor:

In response to SPJ’s statement released by president Irwin Gratz regarding the Miller/Cooper Supreme Court cases, i.e., “Public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.” Anonymous sources are sometimes necessary in ferreting out vital information on the operation of our governments, and the integrity of the profession and its mission in informing the public are jeopardized when journalists don’t honor their promises of confidentiality to those sources.

Inasmuch as I agree with this statement, the foundation of democracy requires that justice be undertaken against those who pose significant threats to our children, our families and our lives.

The protection and freedom from attacks by sexual predators and murderers is far more important than the protection of the identity of a journalist’s source. The public’s need to know cannot be measured against human life. SPJ’s statement shows a lack of objectivity and sensitivity to those in our society that have been victims of abuse, rape and murder.

I have written criticisms regarding statements of SPJ, and SPJ has, itself, censored my comments by failing to publish them. I think it is important that SPJ re-evaluate some its positions and entertain opposing views.

Dan Gilbert