Tag Archives: ethics

If Murrow Could See Us Now

A few decades ago I was a reporter and learned how to be a better (read that: damned good) reporter once I escaped the classroom for the rest of the world. I’m sure some (most) of my first professional stories were dreck, but you know what? They were well-researched, non-opinionated and fact-checked repeatedly to make sure they could withstand anything thrown against them.

I had journalists who were mentors in those early years, but with those few exceptions you guys know who the real mentors were? Cops. They taught me everything I needed to know about ethics, professionalism and about why the “why” was as equally important as the other “W’s” and “how?” They all held the same “weight.” If the scales were balanced properly, you’d have a good story. It wasn’t all about the contrivance of “if it bleeds, it leads.” Race, color, creed, national origin or sexual preference were oh so rarely entertained (at least by me and many of my contemporaries) that I didn’t care if the guy sent to death row was anything other than guilty.

Btw – I also learned that the swill brewed in a coffee pot that hadn’t been properly washed since 1972 had a cumulative effect and I could work for hours straight on that stuff (sugar and cream were necessary though…whew!!!)

Ok… wait… I know this is already going to be long and truly has nothing to do with the point I’m trying to make, but this IS my post and …“squirrel!!!!!” I gotta share this:

Sgt. RH and Lt. ES and I had a bet one morning over the last donut in the unit. First person to down a cup of swill would get the donut. RH poured me a fresh cup and was about to hand it to me, but I declined and took HIS mug off the desk. “Drink up, boys…” RH couldn’t do it. The coffee was still way too hot. I swear he looked like I kicked his dog or something. One down. ES laughed so hard he was in tears. Two down.
I gently set RH’s empty mug down and excused myself to the ladies room and re-enacted the volcano exploding over Pompeii. (Yeah. I know. I know.)
So when I went back into the squad office those two guys had divvied up the pastry and were taking the last bite and each had a Cheshire grin. Lessons learned that day: 1) Peace Officers are a lot smarter than you think they are and 2)Never leave a donut unattended. But I massively digress…

Yellow journalism has come raging back into style again. It wasn’t pretty the first time around, but the media (in general) seem to have forgotten things like checking facts, getting two sides of a story and are now just blatantly being unethical or unprofessional (in my opinion.)

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here. I think some of the biggest bigots in the world are today’s journalists who have a cavalier attitude toward truth. Stories need to be told, but they need to be honest and “fair.” And by “fair” I mean those scales need to come to rest side by side with the facts checked and personal-bias (opinions) set aside.

People are a little smarter than the average guppie; maybe, just maybe, the world would be a little less flammable if the media would just give us the facts.

If Edward R Murrow were alive today, I’m pretty certain he’d soon be dead from a coronary.