Chris Bessler, owner of Keokee Publishing in Sandpoint and my guru on anything to do with the publishing world, tells me I actually have to post something in this blog EVERY DAY! I hadn't realized that, but when Chris suggests, I perform. (kind of)
Yesterday, I appeared with Priest River Times Publisher Terrie Ivey on Bill Litsinger's radio show (the Voice - 1400 KSPT, noon on Mondays). We were talking about ethics in journalism, though I'm not sure we ever got around to talking about it with any substance at all. An hour radio show isn't nearly as long as it sounds. Too bad... because I have some pretty strong opinions regarding journalistic ethics, and they don't always match those of the regular media. Maybe it's because I never went to J-school.
Talking in the parking lot after the show, the question was "is it okay to publish negative information on the front page about someone who's a 'pubic figure?'" My answer was tied up in my definition of news - being something the public has need of to know. So it depends on the public figure. If it's someone you're gonna vote for, or someone who works with your kids, or someone you may have given your money to... then yes, it's news. But if the information is on the front page and there's NO benefit to public knowledge, then we in the press need to butt out.
The people may have a right to know, but that information is available in the police blotter if they really want it. Newspapers make clear decisions about who gets pilloried on the front page - not EVERY person charged with a crime makes it there - and I suggest that many of those decisions are driven by the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentalitiy of the regular media. That's not a rule we follow at the River Journal.