Man Without Qualities

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bad Reporting, Or Responsible Journalism?

Suppose two major newspapers - one in Los Angeles and one in Washington, D.C. - learn of a supposed plot to blow up the Library Tower in Los Angeles. Suppose further that the newspapers have reason to believe that the report of the plot was bogus.

Does the reader think something like that might explain something like this?

Would it be less responsible for a Los Angeles paper to publish what it believes likely to be a bogus report about a plot to do something really bad in Los Angeles than it would be for a paper in Washington to do so? The bad, real-world consequences of the Los Angeles paper publishing a bogus report about its home town would seem to be worse than if an out-of-town paper did so. Does that matter?

Of course, publishing big, bad, suspected-bogus reports about local events (and non-events!) would spice up the copy! Policies favoring that kind of thing would sort of move the whole paper towards being one, big gossip column - wouldn't they?

Just asking.

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