The Role & Responsibility of Traditional Media

When high profile legal issues arise, the traditional media attempts a familiar balancing act, weighing ethical obligations of fairness, accuracy and objectivity against the necessity for timely and competitive reporting.

This mission, in itself, requires careful execution. But there is significantly more pressure in recent years, due to a voracious 24-hour news cycle, competition by new media entities that have high-tech speed and occasionally choose to remain unfettered by journalistic ethics, and challenging economic realities.

In Panel #1: The Role and Responsibility of Traditional Media, moderator Sara Beale, the Charles L. B. Lowndes Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, talks with a panel of veteran reporters, journalism academics, and experts in the legal side of journalism. The far-ranging discussion covers the basic tenets of journalistic ethics, famous journalistic controversies, and the difficulties faced by print reporters who increasingly have to cover more ground with fewer resources.

Questions/themes/discussion topics
  • Balancing speed and accuracy
  • The effect of smaller newsrooms and fewer reporters, especially in the world of print journalism
  • Resisting manipulation by sources
  • Media criticism, from ombudsmen to bloggers
  • Historically bad journalism, from McCarthyism to Jayson Blair


Panel Video

"Reporters in the middle of a major breaking story, whether it is what might be considered traditionally newsworthy by journalistic standards or whether it's just Lindsay Lohan's latest brush with the law, can find themselves in a push/pull situation. The pressure to not miss something, to make sure that you have everything your competition has, is enormous."

- Sylvia Adcock

"Journalists may need to be especially cautious in approaching stories of conflict, race, gender, class that appear at first blush to fit a stereotypical mythological formula of a story long loved by listeners."

- Loren Ghiglione
» Biography

"In this day and age, with the blogosphere, with ombudsmen on staff at the Post, there's not one mess up that we make that doesn't run the risk of getting a lot of publicity, at least within the profession, and maybe beyond that."

- Eric Lieberman

"What we learned from studying the McCarthy era and how he manipulated the press was that he would determine the deadlines of a.m. and p.m. reporters and feed them unverifiable things that were reported as fact, because he knew that they wouldn't have time to check it before their deadline. Well, if there was a McCarthy in 2007, he wouldn't have to do that, because the technology has already done it for him."

- Malcolm Moran
» Biography

"You can't say, either in a newspaper or on a television program, 'We don't have anymore information about this thing than we had yesterday, we'll get back to you when we learn something.' You have to report. You have to advance the story."

- William Raspberry
» Biography

"We at NPR and other news organizations have this constant struggle between... being the lapdog and being the watchdog. And either way you get criticized. If you're the lapdog, you're criticized for not being critical enough. If you're the watchdog, you're criticized for putting opinion analysis into what should be just-the-facts reporting."

- Ari Shapiro
» Biography