5 Years After Jayson Blair, Newspapers Too Broke to Care About Ethics

Superstar MarketWatch media columnist Jon Friedman remembered recently that there was this young fellow who worked for the Times once who got in trouble for making things up and lying. It was a bit of a scandal! It happened five years ago this... season, so Friedman asks a couple folk what they think of the current state of media ethics. Salon's Joan Walsh says the Jayson Blair (for that was the fabricator's name) scandal forced writers and editors to remind themselves not to lie, or to maybe fact-check once in a while. Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell says the scandal encouraged more papers to issue corrections more often and not plagiarize so much. But a couple critics note that Jayson Blair is really the least of the newsmedia's woes in 2008.

New Yorker media critic Ken Auletta sees mixed results: "I suspect that serious felons like Blair have been deterred. But cheating and cutting corners has not been. Declining circulation, falling advertising revenues, and the swooning stock value of traditional news organizations, coupled with expanding consumer choices, prompts slashed newsroom budgets.

"This leaves fewer editors and fact checkers to police newsrooms. Worse, with business declining, the folks who sign our checks push for more sensational stories, more conflict, more sharp opinion — anything — to lift their news stories from the clutter. The business culture imposes itself on the journalistic culture. In the contest between the two cultures, business usually triumphs," Auletta wrote.

Whoa, way to bring us down, Ken! Slate's Jacob Weisberg is more succinct: ""I think the print media's credibility issues have been largely overwhelmed by its economic issues."

And, you know, with the Times culling a hundred reporters today, yeah, we'd have to agree that no one's paying attention to their "credibility" anymore.

Media ethics since the Jayson Blair bombshell [MarketWatch]