Should journalists be human beings?

Scott Rosenberg over at Salon has an interesting post, which I came across after reading his post about Apple and Boot Camp (for the record, he’s not interested). It seems a producer on Good Morning America named John Green was fired after Matt Drudge posted some emails he sent around at work during the 2004 presidential debates. Apparently, ABC didn’t like the looks of this and asked him to stay home for a month. He reportedly also made mildly derogatory comments about Madeleine Albright. As Scott puts it:

“John Green had the temerity, the gall, the poor form, not just to have an opinion but to share it in an email message. Really, the guy shouldn’t just be suspended, he should be drummed out of the journalism profession without a hearing. Revoke his credentials (whatever they are)! Let’s make sure all the editors, reporters, producers and correspondents out there never have opinions.”

Scott’s point is that reporters and producers (and yes, even the odd editor) are people too, and therefore have emotions and may occasionally express them. Was it wise to put his thoughts in an email? Probably not. But any journalist who has worked in a newsroom for more than five minutes – and yes, that includes NPR – will have heard much, much worse. Seriously. It would curl your hair. As Scott notes:

“At some point we will need to give up and simply accept that journalists and editors are human beings, and human beings have points of view, and it’s better to know those biases than to pretend they don’t exist.”

An excellent point. And Marvin Kalb of Harvard’s Center on the Media and Public Policy (or whatever the heck it’s called) had a nice observation in the NYT story:

“A reporter, a producer, an editor ought to be able to sound off with a personal opinion now and again, without it becoming news,” said Mr. Kalb, a former reporter for NBC and CBS News. “At this rate, we may end up only being able to confide to our wives, under the covers, late at night. And that’s very sad.”

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