Monday, January 26, 2009

Journalistic Ethics 101

As you may have seen, Ted Haggard and his former church are back in the news--revealing that he had had another improper relationship with a young man at the church.

The current pastor, Brady Boyd, explains the financial aspect of the church's settlement with the young man:
AP reports “the church reached a legal settlement to pay the man for counseling and college tuition, with one condition being that none of the parties involved discuss the matter publicly.”

“It wasn’t at all a settlement to make him be quiet or not tell his story,” Boyd said. “Our desire was to help him. Here was a young man who wanted to get on with his life. We considered it more compassionate assistance - certainly not hush money. I know what’s what everyone will want to say because that’s the most salacious thing to say, but that’s not at all what it was.”

So what did choose as the lede for their story? Eric Marrapodi and Jim Spellman write:
A megachurch paid a 20-year-old man to keep silent about a sexual relationship he had with disgraced evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, a senior church pastor said.
It's a false lede--a direct contradiction of what the pastor actually said. This is incompetent reporting.

Mollie Hemingway came to the same conclusion: ", the story is salacious enough as it is. There’s really no need to break basic rules of journalism to spice it up, is there?"