WEDNESDAY’S LETTERS: Ethics and Threats, Collegiate Times, USA Today and Alberto Gonzoles

By: E&P Staff

In today’s letters, a reporter recounts the threats he received because of a story, another remembers tougher conflict-of-interest policy at USA Today, and a reader comments on Joe Strupp’s piece about the coverage by Virginia Tech’s student newspaper.

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Journalistic Ethics Forged by Threats?

The Village Voice published an article in its “Press Clips” column written by Cynthia Cotts about how an expose on a bordello I did while a reporter at the Florence (S.C.) Morning News got me fired, put a lot of people in jail and ended up garnering me two plaques of commendation, one from the S.C. Senate — from Sen. Maggie Glover — and one from the S.C. House, both for investigative reporting.

The bordello continued to operate, and it was busted again recently, netting charges against Marlboro County’s former coroner for running the place and other arrests. They found coke and money.

Your ethics column doesn’t cover what reporters should do when an anonymous caller leaves a message on your answering machine: “You’re dead. You hear me? You’re a dead man,” all in Southern male drawl dripping like bee honey every night in my brain.

There’s no ethics in journalism. The high and mighty administrations are owned, bought and paid for, and when there is pressure or a threat, we pay dearly as journalists. Somebody needs to threaten every journalist in America. Then maybe we would get fair coverage of the war and this corrupt presidential administration. God bless the journalists embedded and our troops.

Tim Bullard
Conway, S.C.

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Gonzoles, Conflicts, and USA Today

As someone who spent years working for Ken Paulson, now editor of USA Today, I can’t help but note with amusement the fact that the newspaper had Alberto Gonzalez as its guest.

Paulson was like a wolverine about ethical issues — and, indeed, was brought in at USA Today in the wake of an ethics scandal. When I worked for him, you couldn’t accept a free T-shirt or coffee mug as a promotional item because it might create the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Unlike, say, having an embattled attorney general, who you’re covering everyday, as your dinner guest at a prestigious Washington social event.

The same is obviously true of the NYTimes inviting Karl Rove. But Paulson has been so public in his pronouncements about journalistic ethics that his hypocrisy is truly galling.

Nora Mailer

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An Honor for Virginia Tech’s School Paper

I just finished reading your commentary on the notion of nominating the Virginia Tech newspaper for a Pulitzer Prize. I appreciate your recognition of college media. The challenges faced by those students are unparalleled. Their accomplishments need the kind of feedback you have provided. We all define ourselves by the conflicts in our lives. I am grateful to you for pointing them out to all of us.

Bill Dorman, Ph. D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Communication and Theatre
Millersville University
National President-National Broadcasting Society/Alpha Epsilon Rho

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