Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk: One Edit Too Many?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk: One Edit Too Many?

Article excerpt

Did Dave Murray of The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, cross an ethical line when he agreed to review a presentation the mayor was preparing? Or did he engage in journalistic sleuthing that led to a great news story about how that presentation included some misleading facts? Or, perhaps, both?

Ever since word emerged about Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's November presentation at the International Awards for Liveable Communities, some in the Blade newsroom have questioned a decision by Murray -- the paper's special projects editor -- to read over the text,

at Finkbeiner's request. Murray says he made only minor suggestions.

"We were just floored," says Lillian Covarrubias, president of the Toledo Newspaper Guild. "We raised mild objections to it, and everyone in the newsroom was concerned about objectivity. It would not have been tolerated if one of our members had done it."

Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at The Poynter Institute, calls the potential ethical problem "minor," but stresses that "If they had come to me and asked me, I would have said better not to do it. As a journalist, you've got to say there is an independent issue there. It is not black-and-white, but it would have been better if he had not proofread it."

Murray disagrees, claiming he crossed no line and ended up getting a good news story out of it that was somewhat critical of the presentation. "I looked at this as a news opportunity. He called me out of the blue, said he had a big presentation and wanted me to read it," he says. "He e-mailed it to me, I read it, I said it looked OK to me. I changed a couple of verb tenses and then it looked cool to me. That was the end of it. I am very aware of ethics, and I would not do anything that would harm the image of the paper."

Mayoral Spokesman Brian Schwartz tells me Murray's input was considered valuable, noting that the newsman "read it before it was presented in Europe. He was asked to look at it as an editor who is eminently qualified to take a look at it, and offer any criticism or correct any mistakes as far as grammar. It was important that it be flawless."

A Blade article on Nov. 24 observed, "The Toledo delegation charged with selling the city as the most 'Liveable Community' of its size in the world will make its presentation today in London. The 13-member group, headed by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, yesterday put the finishing touches on a 40-minute multimedia presentation. The team aims to wow the judges of the U. …

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