Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: No Spoiling the Bunch

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: No Spoiling the Bunch

Article excerpt

When a newspaper is stumped for an original investigative project, it often takes aim at the public schools with a series invariably titled something like "Bad Apples." The paper bravely exposes the local or state school system for failing to screen out/ discipline/fire teachers who are incompetent/felons/sex offenders.

Now, the judges at the Investigative Reporters and Editors contest may roll their eyes to see yet another "Rotten Apples" series in their inbox, but the fact remains a lot of school systems do fail in these fundamental responsibilities.

Still, the next time a paper is looking for some high horse to mount, it might think about investigating how it is that the newspaper industry manages to harbor so many bad apples who endanger the very lifeblood of its business -- its credibility -- while misleading or cheating readers.

We're moved to this observation now not because of any specific news of an unethical reporter or unhinged manager. Newspapers can fill a police blotter with journalistic felonies at any time. The topic may be a little more timely with the arrival of summer, when, for some mysterious reason, a rash of plagiarism breaks out like prickly heat.

Plagiarism, it's often been observed, is a serial crime, and that's usually also true of other ethical violations. When the first theft is discovered, the belated fact-checking nearly always uncovers more lifted passages, and chatty sources who aren't listed in the phone book.

Nearly always, too, this is not the work of the new kid on the block. …

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