Journalists discuss ethics

“What do you do when you’re trying to report the news, and the government says if you report that, it is unpatriotic?” asked Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst for National Public Radio. “I say, ‘Get lost.'”

Schorr, a panelist at Monday night’s Kalb Report, debated “The Ethics of Journalism in War and Politics” alongside four other members of the media – David Broder, a Washington Post columnist; Karen Jurgensen, editor of USA Today; Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent for CBS News and Margaret Warner, senior correspondent for PBS’s “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.”

The Kalb Report is sponsored by GW, the National Press Club and the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and takes place several times each semester.

Jurgensen criticized the embedding of journalists in Iraq, saying Americans got only “one slice of the story.”

Broder had a positive view of the situation.

“I think this is something that worked to the advantage of the government and of the American public,” he said.

Schorr said embedding was “wonderful for the government” and provided journalists with good photographs, but “if the reports don’t get a good audience at the White House or even at the Defense Department, they have ways of influencing the reporter.”

The panel also focused on using government leaks, specifically, columnist and CNN’s “Crossfire” host Robert Novak’s recent revelation of an undercover CIA agent’s name in a column.

“What was really interesting was, what was the motivation of the leaker? And that wasn’t touched on in the column,” Warner said.

“It’s the government’s responsibility to keep the government’s secrets secret … our role happens to be … to get out to the public as much and as specific information as possible,” she said.

“And if part of that role involves … receiving information from people who have the worst motivation in the world for doing it, that’s still part of our job,” she added.

Broder said it was “institutional arrogance” and “lust for the story” that led to The Times’ problems.

After posing questions for an hour, moderator Marvin Kalb allowed audience members to ask their own.

In response to a question about the music FOX News played during the bombing of Iraq, Schorr said “It’s everything artificial that makes news untruthful. We must try to cling to reality … We’re losing our sense of what reality is.”

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