Ethical and Legal Concerns in a Digital World

A Top Award for What?

Posted in ethical issues by digitalprof on December 29, 2005

What A Mockery

The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recently published an “open letter” concerning the SPJ awarding Judith Miller of the New York Times the First Amendment honor at it recent national convention.

To sum-up for those who may not be aware (so where were you that you didn’t hear this story?) Miller went to jail rather than reveal her source for a story appearing in the New York Times concerning information about CIA agent Valerie Plame. Plame is the wife of former United States Ambassador Joe Wilson. Wilson wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times that questioned information in a statement made by President George Bush in his 2003 State of the Union speech.

There has been great debate in media circles regarding this “honor.” If you have some time, and want to read some great venting do a Google search on this subject.

As for my posting…I just could not let the year go by without adding to the questioning of this dubious achievement by a leading organization in the professional world of journalism. And why is this posted on a blog about the “Digital World?” Quite simply, journalism is rapidly becoming a digitally dominated medium. Besides, it’s my blog.

The question I pose is simple: Does a shield law concern outweigh the ethics of “proper” journalism? It really seems to me to be a case of the chicken before the egg. I don’t believe you can have good journalism if a concern for the information received is faulty from the beginning.

For those with their heads still in the ground, the New York Times finally hitched-up their pants and admitted their reporter was “slack” in her duties enough to warrant remideration. Judith Miller was fired/resigned.

And now we will await the news of the source of that leak in the courts. Let’s hope that they do a better job with the truth than award-winning journalists may have done in the past.


Thanks to a comment posted by The Woodchuck I need to make sure to correct what most already know ( I really did know this, but the brain is old…so yup, I got it wrong!)… Ambassador Joe Wilson wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times not a letter to the editor. Later, Wilson wrote a letter to the congressional committee investigating his claim, and that was published in the Times.

Thanks Woodchuck…please read his post…he seems to have an interesting blog. Contribute as you can.


One Response to 'A Top Award for What?'

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  1. I think Wilson’s piece in the Times was actually published as an op-ed, not a letter to the editor, but that’s a minor quibble…

    On the topic of letters to the editor, I have started a website which looks for smart, original letters in national, regional and local newspapers:

    The link is:

    In my experience, the best insights and writing in any paper come from its readers.

    If you have written or have seen an interesting letter to the editor, I’d like to hear about it… Please visit (and post ideas and comments) at the address above, or click my link.


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