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A shame for journalism

by on April 11, 2013

For those of you who have already read today’s material regarding the Janet Cooke case, I am interested to see your reactions to her deceit.  I am appalled, but then again, I am not surprised.  In the “Other thoughts” section of the article commenting on Cooke’s fabricated story , I agree with the author’s argument that writers are extremely eager to get on the front page of a newspaper. This made me question if I truly want to work in an industry in which the spotlight is won over through a web of lies and untruthful reporting? She even lied about her resume for god’s sake! I’m assuming her ethics were based upon carrying out principles which only delivered  personal satisfaction. She wanted a killer story, and she got it. However, what do you guys think about the editors and fact checkers who didn’t do their job because they said she was so convincing wit her story? This might sound a bit conspiracist, but, what if every single article you read from a news organization was fabricated -a piece of fiction, how would you know if it’s sourced and approved by the editor? 

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3 Comments
  1. I don’t think the front page of newspapers is won over by a web of lies and untruthful reporting, though stories fitting that bill have made the front page. Employment in newswriting rests on reliability and reputation. Reporters who fabricate stories don’t hold jobs long after they’re found out (though some of made lengthy careers of it – 14 years and 34 stories worth for Karen Jeffrey at the Cape Cod Times from 1998-2012, according to the NYT).

  2. This is a very interesting topic and the Janet Cooke case really prompts a discussion on the broader issue of honesty in reporting. I agree that it is truly disgusting that her story was even able to get published in the first place, and it does seem extremely strange that it took the “fact checkers” so long to actually do their job in this case.
    In this situation, I see a humanistic lapse on behalf of Cooke’s editors; they seem to have been sort of charmed by Cooke, making her deception easier. As Professor Maddy Blais discussed in class the other day, Cooke seemed to have a charm about her that made people want to believe her. In the article you linked it says, “When Cooke visited The Post two weeks later, every interviewer was impressed. She was a striking, smartly dressed, articulate black woman, precisely the kind of applicant editors welcome, given the pressures to hire minorities and women.” In my opinion, Cooke’s editors were just as wrapped up in the idea of her as they were in the idea of her story. Her story had all the makings of a Pulitzer Prize winner, with its shining clichés and powerful images. While the cynical side of me sees the possibility of a conspiracy on behalf of the paper, I am slanted to believe that the problem was really that the editors and Cooke’s fellow journalists were just so wrapped up in the whole situation that they didn’t have their journalist hats on. Had it been a different person, or a different situation, things probably would have gone differently. However, the excuse that they couldn’t have known, and that they have to trust their journalists, makes the situation so much worse to me. It is pretty obvious that even with the slightest bit of fact checking Cooke’s deceptions would have been unveiled; I mean, it was complete fiction and if they had even tried to look up the boy they would have realized that.

  3. I understand what you are saying when you mention questioning if you want to be in an industry that questions a journalist’s every move, but I think that is what you sign up for when you become a journalist. It is inevitable; people want to make sure that the information they are receiving is reliable, and that cannot be done if journalists begin fabricating stories. Perhaps Janet Cooke did not make for a good journalist because of her eye for fabrication, but I don’t think that it is unfair that her mistake was made so public, and that her reputation was scarred. A person who wants to become a journalist but can instead fabricate so much of a story and is known to be a liar has a bad work ethic, and that work ethic will translate into any job the Cooke accepts. It is her own fault that her reputation is ruined, but the profession she chose magnifies any factual mistake made. If those mistakes are intentional, then readers cannot blame the profession of journalism, but must instead hold one reporter who stories responsible for the intent of the mistake.

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