AD situation overblown by media
In case you missed our take yesterday on the newest Julie Hermann debacle, here’s a quick recap: During a guest lecture in the class “Media Ethics and Law,” Hermann made some unnecessary comments about The Star-Ledger, implying that she wouldn’t mind if they went under as a company. A student recording the lecture named Simon Galperin, also happened to be the managing editor of Muckgers.com, an online student publication at Rutgers. He used the recording to write an article about it on the website, also providing a copy of the recording to nj.com. Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi called Hermann out on her comments, and there has since been much discussion surrounding the entire issue.
In our editorial yesterday, we already talked about how fed up we are with Hermann for managing to screw things up for us yet again. But we have another question concerning the journalistic ethics of the actual coverage of this whole fiasco.
First of all, “Media Ethics and Law” is a class that actually requires students to write articles about guest speakers. It’s well within reason to assume most students would be recording and taking notes on everything guest speakers say. We are surprised the professor for the class — considering it is an ethics class — didn’t clarify whether the lecture was on the record at the beginning, even just as a formality. But like we already said, Hermann is mostly at fault in this situation. Regardless of where she is speaking, she is fully responsible for everything she says.
In the University policy, it says, “As a general rule, recording devices and camera-equipped devices (including mobile communication devices) and their uses are restricted in accordance with state and federal regulatory guidelines concerning unauthorized surveillance.” Legally, Galperin didn’t do anything wrong. According to Adam Goldstein, an attorney at the Student Press Law Center, “It might not be ethical according to Hoyle, but there isn’t anything wrong with it from a legal perspective.” Goldstein also said since Hermann was speaking to a group of people in what is considered a public setting, anything she said was fair game.
It might seem a little sneaky of Galperin not to have introduced himself as a reporter, but we understand in the bigger picture of the field: You can’t always say you’re a journalist. Sometimes investigative reporting is the only way to get information. If Galperin had identified himself as a journalist in the beginning, Hermann probably would not have said anything about The Star-Ledger at all.
Besides the fact the Muckgers article was poorly written (complete with a very confusing picture of Hermann’s head photoshopped onto the Rutgers mascot that is just beyond us), we question the motive behind it. The article certainly isn’t objective — while the facts it presents aren’t untrue, the tone of it is quite biased against Hermann. To its credit, according to Muckgers’ mission statement, their student reporting is inherently biased because, “We live, sleep, and study where and what we report. Our objectivity is already compromised.” Yet this brings us to a larger issue of new media. Do we read the articles on websites like Muckgers.com as we would a blog, or as an actual news outlet?
The digital age has produced what could be called a new age of yellow journalism. There is more of a focus on getting hits and high Internet traffic — and sensationalism sells. Yes, Hermann lacked good judgment when she criticized The Star-Ledger in front of an entire media ethics class, but her quotes were taken somewhat out of context and blown completely out of proportion. Was it necessary to make an entire news story out of what she said? Probably not. It’s unfortunate that because of all the press surrounding this whole situation, guest speakers could be deterred from speaking in our classes — Hermann definitely isn’t going to be making any appearances anytime soon.