Posted by Katie Minnick
This week, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker received a phone call from David Koch, one of the governor’s wealthy, conservative supporters, so he thought. Later, it was revealed that the caller was actually Ian Murphy, the editor of the Buffalo Beast, an online liberal newspaper based out of Buffalo, N.Y.
Walker and Murphy held a 20-minute conversation, which Murphy recorded through Skype, discussing Walker’s tactics to gain supporters and voters. Walker dismissed the call, saying it would not stop him from continuing his policies. Many are outraged at some of the tactics Walker described in the phone call.
Aside from the politics of the situation, there is another large problem with this incident: journalistic integrity. Although the practice of misrepresentation on a phone call may not be illegal, is widely looked down upon by many people and journalistic organizations. The Society of Professional Journalists condemned Murphy’s actions. Hagit Limor, president of SPJ, said of the incident, “This may be how Hollywood portrays reporters, but no journalist worth his salt ever would misrepresent his name and affiliation when seeking an interview. Murphy should be ashamed not only of his actions but of besmirching our profession by acting so shamelessly.”
The Code of Ethics provided by SPJ states that, “Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.” Although the Buffalo Beast may provide an extremely biased and slanted view of news and politics, they still have moral and ethical obligations as journalists. If we as journalists are not honest and moral, no one will trust us.
Do you see this incident as unethical or wrong? Or was Murphy just using a unique tool of reporting to gather information that the public ought to know? Are journalists becoming “too loose” in their ethics?