Finally, some ethics – Staff editorial

Juanita Broaddrick is known as “Jane Doe No. 5.” She has been for quite a while. And although the public barely knows who she is, she comes with a story that is as explosive as it is unproven. Broaddrick claims that in 1978, then-Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her in a hotel room.

For months the story of “Jane Doe No. 5” had made the rounds on the Internet and talk radio shows. But it was NBC News that snagged an exclusive interview with Broaddrick. Several weeks later, the story has yet to run on the peacock network, though it has been reported in other news media outlets. NBC showed integrity and courage by refusing to run the story until its reporters triple-checked their facts and substantiated some of Broaddrick’s claims. In the post-Monica Madness era, NBC’s decision is a hopeful sign that journalistic integrity still exists.

Reporters in NBC News’ Washington bureau pressed for the story’s broadcast, saying they had checked all the facts. But NBC executives made the right decision – they refused to bend to the pressure of a scoop by airing a story they didn’t feel comfortable with. The Wall Street Journal printed a lengthy account of Broaddrick’s allegations on its opinion pages Friday. The Washington Post received permission to use off-the-record interviews about the allegations in a story Saturday.

This sort of lowest common denominator journalism was decried throughout the Lewinsky saga. But it continues. In recent years, NBC has aired simplistic, sometimes irresponsible reporting on shows such as “Dateline” in an effort to snare high ratings. This time, NBC sacrificed the ratings for journalistic integrity. It’s a shame other news media did not show the same restraint.

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