ShareThis Page
News Columnists

Reporters 'love' to tell the truth

| Friday, March 26, 2004

Courtney Love and I were discussing journalism ethics recently, and as you might imagine the conversation was fairly one-sided.

The rock 'n' roll chanteuse cradled her head in her hands of the darkened Manhattan bistro where we clandestinely met. This was shortly after her notorious shirt-lifting appearance on David Letterman's show and her subsequent arrest for allegedly striking a fan with a microphone stand.

I was ranting about Jack Kelley, the disgraced former USA Today correspondent who either plagiarized or fabricated portions of many reports he filed for the newspaper. Even the story for which Kelley was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 -- a gripping account in which he claimed to have witnessed a suicide bombing in Israel -- was phony.

Kelley is the latest in a seemingly endless spate of journalists to be uncovered engaging in invention. He was dishonorably discharged faster than you could say Jayson Blair, who resigned from The New York Times last year after committing similar transgressions.

If he follows Blair's lead, Kelley will remain unemployed only until signing a lucrative book deal to explain that socioeconomic forces beyond his control forced him to betray his chosen profession.

"When journalists get caught making up things, they don't just hurt themselves," I told Love. "The entire industry wears their blemish, because the public trust in any newspaper diminishes each time these deceptions occur. Do you see my point?"

"Ohhhhhh," the hard-partying punk priestess moaned softly. "I don't feel so good."

"Neither do I," I said. "Because the bad example that Kelley and others before him have set ultimately could influence an entire generation of up-and-coming reporters. They might get the mistaken impression it's easy to fabricate their work and dupe their editors for years. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Urp," Love belched.

"Let me give you an example," I continued. "After seeing what Kelley and Blair got away with for so long, what's to stop some metro columnist somewhere from inflating his ego and his readership by publishing unverifiable one-on-one conversations with supposed celebrity acquaintances?"

Crack! Love went face-first into the table. It had to have hurt.

"He couldn't expect to get away with it forever, of course," I said. "But even after being unmasked as a fraud, there is ample evidence to suggest he could earn a lot of money and even greater recognition just by writing a book about his deceitful ways. Unbelievable, isn't it?"

Love responded by sliding under the table in a semi-conscious stupor. It was all for the best, I suppose. I had a red-eye flight to catch to Jerusalem, where I would witness the head of a suicide bomber rolling down the street after blowing up himself and a pizzeria.

I stuck my own head under the table to make sure Love was still breathing.

"Can I call you a cab?" I asked.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me