Friday, March 19, 2004

USA Today Reporter Busted

Investigators say he fabricated parts of substantial numbers of stories. Why oh why do we have affirmative action for white christian evangelical men? Why oh why do newspaper editors let their biases about such people cloud their judgment? I'm sure the brothers Hack, Glenn and Mickey, will spend weeks discussing how this guy's race and religion allowed him to get away with things that other journalists couldn't get away with.

From JOHN PHILLIP SANTOS: There was a troubling sidebar to the NYT coverage of the Jack Kelley flap, reported by Times media correspondent, Jacques Steinberg.

Reporting on an interview with Johanna Newmann, Kelley's onetime foreign editor at USAT, now at the LA Times, Steinberg reports that Kelley, because he was so widely trusted, was allowed to use only a first name to identify the author of an alleged Serbian girl's diary that contained murderous anti-Croat vituperations. The story ran on USAT's front page.

"That trust, she (Newmann) said, was rooted to some extent in his openness with his colleagues about being an evangelical Christian. 'He was this very earnest, moralistic Christian reporter,' she said. 'It made people trust him in ways they didn't trust other reporters. If he was reporting he had the diary of a Serbian girl, and no one else had it, you tended to say: 'He just has a way with people. People just respond to him.' "

Steinberg moves on without probing further the implications of Newmann's remarks.

How many newsrooms operate in the shadow world of such an ethic? What kind of an editor would factor a reporter's evangelical Christian beliefs into whether or not to go with a dubious piece of reporting, much less admit to it in the New York Times? Would a good Muslim reporter be likely get the same green light from Newmann? A righteous Bahai or a compassionate Buddhist?

I guess even the most upright Atheist would have to be willing to account for every fact they want to report to the public.

God help us.