Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Hyman's Situational Ethics

The latest “Point” offers an excellent example of the difference between real news organizations and Sinclair Broadcasting.

Mark Hyman goes on at length about an SEC investigation into charges that several publicly-owned newspapers inflated circulation numbers. What ticks him off most is that this hasn’t been covered in the mainstream press.

First, it’s interesting to note that most of the papers Hyman mentions by name are (at least in his estimation) liberal papers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times. He fails to mention that the publishers of the Wall Street Journal and other conservative papers are also subjects of the investigation.

But here’s the more important point: this story was covered. Three months ago. In the Washington Post. And the New York Times. And the Los Angeles Times. And Newsday. In fact, just about every major paper Hyman mentions promptly ran stories about this investigation. That’s because these are publications run by actual journalists with a sense of ethics.

Let’s contrast this to Mark Hyman and Sinclair. Sinclair Broadcasting caused its stockholders to take huge losses when it insisted on running a discredited propaganda piece that attacked Senator John Kerry. The corporate heads at Sinclair put their own political interests ahead of their stockholders. Did Sinclair mention this controversy (as almost every other news organization did)? No. Instead, Mark Hyman offered carefully worded commentaries that discussed the controversy about “John Kerry’s snub of Vietnam veterans” when he refused to appear on Sinclair’s broadcast. He managed to do this without mentioning Sinclair Broadcasting by name, indicating his own role in the controversy, or making it clear that the stations on which he was appearing were Sinclair-owned stations. This is an unconscionable act that violates basic ethics rules that are taught in any introductory class in journalism programs across the country.

But ethics are only important for Hyman when they can be invoked to slam perceived enemies, not when it comes to making decisions in the Sinclair boardroom.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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