The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, August 09, 2002  

A Matter of Integrity and Sound Reporting

Welcome to Journalism 101. Today we’re having a pop quiz on standards of journalistic integrity.

Scenario: Gossip A from Newspaper X, where you work as an editor, picks up a story about a prominent politician and his wife put out by Gossip B, of Web Site Y, whose report cites only anonymous sources.

In an attempt to lend an aura of credibility to a second-hand story, Gossip A, who has submitted politically biased stories to you in the past, leans on a Gossip C, of Web Site Z, who has a decidedly mixed record of accuracy and reliability.

In Gossip A’s article, the politician’s spokesman provides convincing evidence that the story is made of whole cloth.

In opposition to that denial, Gossip A asserts contact with unnamed sources and then turns to Gossip B for a quote defending the original report, a quote in which Gossip B stands his ground but offers nothing else in his defense other than an unsubstantiated reconfiguration of the time line of events.

Your assignment: In an essay of up to 500 words, explain why you, as the editor of Gossip A’s newspaper, would or would not publish Gossip A’s story. Discuss and defend your position and base your defense on well-established standards of journalistic integrity.

It is not necessary for you to identify Gossips A, B, and C, Newspaper X, and Web Sites Y and Z. This information will be provided at the conclusion of the assignment.

[Ed.: Minor post-publication edits for purposes of clarity.]

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