Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

You Be the Editor: How Will You Handle This Cook's Tale?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

You Be the Editor: How Will You Handle This Cook's Tale?

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Clark, Times-Union Reader Advocate

Let's pretend you are the editor. You will have to make decisions before a story is published. But the following scenario isn't fiction. It actually happened.

-- Your reporter is preparing a positive feature story on a cook who supposedly worked at the White House and now has a job teaching prisoners the cooking trade. Just before the story is ready for publication, an editor asks if the cook's resume has been checked. All you have are clippings from other newspapers, though some are prominent metro dailies. You:

1. Drop the story. This feature isn't worth the extra effort.

2. Don't bother to check. Who cares if the cook's background has been cooked?

3. Hold the story till the facts can be checked, since you have an ethical duty as a journalist to seek the truth.

-- In checking the cook's background, you discover a lack of proof of his resume. You:

1. Drop the story. It's not worth pursuing an investigation of a small-time cook.

2. Continue to pursue these leads. You don't know where this search will end. Since the cook has been the subject of reports in other newspapers, you have a greater duty.

-- As you interview the cook with his supervisor, the cook admits his background was largely fictional and resigns on the spot. The cook later thanks the reporter for helping him to stop living a lie. You:

1. Don't run the story. Why further embarrass the man?

2. Run the story inside the newspaper as a light-hearted feature.

3. Run the story on the front page as an investigative piece. Unraveling the mystery makes it more interesting.

If you were editor, what would you do? Please explain your reasons. Are there other options? I'd prefer responses via e-mail. Let me know if you don't want to be quoted.

ADVOCATING FOR READERS

-- About 20 readers called to offer help to the homeless man featured in the One of Us column last Monday. …

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