Home > posts > The Ethics of ABC…. Really, Not So Bad
January 19th, 2012 1:00 pm
The Ethics of ABC…. Really, Not So Bad

There are all sorts of debates out there about the ethics of ABC airing the interview with Marianne Gingrich. Here’s my take:

Here’s what journalistic ethics say: IF, repeat IF, it is legitimate news, and IF, repeat IF, you have crossed all your Ts and dotted all your ‘I’s, meaning you have checked out the accuracy of whatever can be checked out (did Newt make a speech in Erie the day after Marianne’s mother’s birthday? Was it in significant part about family values, as she claimed in the interview?, etc.), THEN, once you have your story nailed down, you do NOT “manage” the news by trying to rush it, or on the contrary to hold it, because there is an election; instead, you go with it at the earliest time you can go with it logistically, regardless of outside considerations. Otherwise, you could just as easily be accused of deliberately holding off the airing of an otherwise valid interview in order to affect the result of a primary. Think of it this way: If there were no Drudge to force ABC’s hand, and if you do not air it until after the primary, then you have DENIED the voters of South Carolina the knowledge that many of them would have wanted to have before they cast their votes. THAT, I dare say, is just as much an interference with the election as it is to air the thing now.

Again, the key question is whether it is legitimate news in the first place — a question which has nothing to do with its timing, and everything to do with journalistic standards of accuracy, completeness, relevance, fairness, etc.

I don’t like these sorts of stories about private lives, unless there is a clear relevance for public policy or for character as shown via particularly egregious hypocrisy. And of course I haven’t seen the whole interview, although sources tell me lots about it. But if ABC has made the judgment that it is indeed legitimate news, then I completely and utterly support its decision to air it now rather than to hold it until after the primary vote. Frankly, it is the only ethical decision the network could have made. If the interview should air, it should air now rather than later. Period.

Comments are closed.