The Employment of Frauds Jeopardizes American Journalism
At the end of July, the New Yorker’s Jonah Lehrer was outed for fabrication. A couple of weeks later, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria was discovered plagiarizing. With two of journalism’s brightest stars imploding like supernovae in the span of a month, it’s only fair us lilliputians get the pleasure of watching their luminous careers burst into radioactive rubble–right? The problem, as Boston.com’s Mark Leccese sees it, is that we haven’t.
Rather than shot-putting their overheated egos across the Milky Way, three of journalism’s most reputed institutions–Wired, Time and CNN–have been coddling them like overprotective mothers.
First, after Lehrer had already resigned in shame from the New Yorker, Wired refused to cut ties on the grounds he hadn’t fabricated anything written for them. Then, after initially suspending Zakaria, both Time and CNN quickly decided to reinstate him following review. Time described his extensive plagiarism as “an unintentional error.”
Let the head-scratching commence.
If “nothing is more important to journalism, as a profession and as part of society, than reputation,” as Leccese, a journalism professor at Emerson College, believes, then Wired, Time and CNN’s behavior is inexcusable.
What kind of message are you sending about journalism as an institution when you permit frauds to write the news? What sort of trust does that legitimately allow people to have in the media?
What the decisions of Wired, Time and CNN suggest is that money matters more to them than ethics. So long as Lehrer and Zakaria continue to sell papers and advertisements, they’ll continue to be published and broadcast on a television near you. Hopefully, when the two finally re-emerge, the American people won’t be too eager to listen.
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