By: Dorothy Giobbe
AMONG ITS MANY options, Michael Moore’s company, Dig Dirt, offers clients a “Bad Reporter” search.
For a $47 fee, users can obtain biographical information on reporters, including “libel suits, sanctions, corrections, retractions, and job terminations.”
Moore, who runs Dig Dirt with his brother, said that the search has never been performed for a client. He added that he was unaware of the recently added Bad Reporter search because he was “too busy” reporting on Congressman Robert Torricelli’s alleged relationship with a Korean fugitive.
Moore also contends that the Bad Reporter search can yield positive information such as association membership, and writing samples.
But some of his Record co-workers were dismayed to discover that he would offer to broker such data as sanctions, retractions and job terminations.
“It’s not exactly what you would expect your colleagues to sell,” said Dunston McNichol, a Record reporter. “He’s our colleague and knows more about us and the way we do our jobs than a routine database would ever reveal.
“When we were dealing with Moore, it was as a colleague ? not on the understanding that our dealings may wind up in a memo to a [Dig Dirt] client somewhere,” he added.
Mike Kelly, a columnist at the Record, said reporters always should be careful of tripping ethical boundaries.
“I don’t think journalists should be in the business of selling any product, whether it’s a hula hoop or a private investigiative business,” Kelly said. “And when it is a private investigative business, it becomes a huge conflict of interest because of its connection to the legal system.”
That said, Kelly added that he has no problem with Bad Reporter-type searches ? as long as they are sold by nonjournalists.
“Reporters should be held to the same kind of scrutiny that police officers, doctors, and even priests are subject to,” he said. “We have to stand on our record.”
As for Moore’s contention that the search was never used?
“If you walk around with a loaded gun, it doesn’t make it any better just because you haven’t shot someone,” McNichol said. “He was offering it ? that was what was offensive.”
Moore says he can see that point ? sort of.
“I guess it’s understandable that they might be [upset], but that search was never conducted on anyone,” Moore said. “I wasn’t aware that it was even up there.
“At the same time, they have to understand that public records are public records,” Moore added. “Just because I was a reporter and that search was up there, I don’t necessarily see a problem with that. If you’re a bad reporter, you’re a bad reporter. If you’re not, you have nothing to worry about.”