1995 Helen and Cecil Rose Ethics and Communication Conference
Rance Crain Publisher and editor-in-chief of Advertising Age
Mary Joyce Division of Communication Studies
Jacqueline Liebergott President of Emerson College
Good afternoon, and welcome back to the afternoon session. I understand the morning session was excellent and Helen Rose has indicated that she was quite pleased with that. I'm sorry I couldn't be here for the morning session. I was at the periodontist and quite frankly I'd rather be here. But I do have the pleasure of being able to introduce our president, Jacqueline Liebergott, who's going to introduce our speaker for this afternoon. I'd like to indicate that at the end of the session today, if you do have questions we'd like you to stand and identify yourself at the microphone before proceeding to ask the question. Once again: Welcome, and thank you for being here. Our president, Jacqueline Liebergott. [applause]
A little boy asked his father one day "Daddy, what does it mean -- 'business ethics'?" "Well," explained the merchant to his son, "it's like this: Comes into a store a man, and he makes a purchase. He gives me a bright new fifty dollar bill, which is just the right amount of the purchase, then he starts on his way out. I'm turning to the cash register when I discover that it's two, not one, fifty dollar bills that are stuck together." Then he says to his son, "Now comes the ethics part: Should I tell my partner?" [laughter] Well, it's an interesting introduction to a speaker on ethics.
Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the evening getting to know Rance Crain. I already knew Rance, and in many ways. I knew that he was president of Crain Communications, a corporation that he owns, and operates, with about twenty-six business publications, including the important one, Advertising Age, which is the industry bible for that field. I already knew that he was a member of Emerson College's Board of Trustees, and that he had a daughter who graduated from Emerson in 1989 who was one of those individuals who had a double major. She majored in television and she majored in business. And I already knew from reading his college records that he was very thoughtful and intelligent and that he was charming. But that's really all I knew, so last night was a chance for me to find out a little bit more about the person you'll find out a great deal more about in a few minutes.
One of the first things I learned, incidentally, was that that's not how he would define business ethics for his children -- and that's not what you'll hear today. And that's particularly why we invited him. But, [as in] all meetings, I found out a great deal about the person -- Who is Rance Crain? I did that by listening to him talk a little bit about his two daughters, and raising two daughters, and what that meant. And of course, like most fathers, he spoke about them with a lot of love, a great deal of pride -- and a startling amount of seriousness for the responsibility of shaping lives that I think a parent feels. What I began to understand as he talked was that he was reflective about the sense of values that he communicated to his children. And of course, like all kids, they were always on his case and they communicated that series of values back to him. But what it all meant to me was that here was a person who was interested in shaping values -- and in shaping most particularly, students' values -- and that's why he had agreed to be here today.
As the dinner went on, we talked about lots of interesting topics, we ranged from O.J. to the JFK documentary, but we spent a little bit of time on docudrama in general. He made an intriguing remark which I've been thinking about all last night and this morning as well. He said, "As I think about docudrama, and as it stretches the possibilities, I'm also very aware that nothing is quite as intriguing and interesting as the reality of the event and how that reality is communicated." And I thought: That's an important idea for someone who deals in advertising, for someone who deals in business, for someone who shapes the media and the media makers. And so it's very appropriate to introduce to you Mr. Rance Crain today. His topic is "Ethics in the Media, Whose Responsibility Is It?" Rance Crain. [applause]
Thank you very much. That was a very, very nice introduction and I appreciate it.
I come to this symposium in a rather roundabout way. It so happens that one day I read this letter to the editor in The New York Times. It was from a gentleman's daughter-in-law, and it talked about how this movie, Quiz Show, didn't depict her father-in-law in an accurate way. And he was an advertising man for one of the sponsors in the quiz show Twenty One. And so I said to myself, "Hey -- that would be a good story for us" and so I asked our people to get in touch with Judy [Kletter].
It turned out that she had approached us first, that she thought it was a pretty good story and she wanted to give it to Advertising Age before The New York Times. I'm very flattered and I wanted you to know that. And we, in our wisdom, said "Well, it's not really much of a story for us" -- and we would never have done anything with it unless I happened to see that letter to the editor. I don't read letters to the editor of The New York Times very often and I just happened to see it. Then after we ran the story -- which I think turned out fine -- Judy came by the office and we got to chatting, we got to know one another and that's how all this started. So I'm delighted to be here today and have this chance to get my two cents in before tempers get too hot and people start to throw things... Oh, I forgot -- they've already done that!
After all, the subject today is ethics in the media and it seems -- as we found out this morning -- that everyone has an opinion. But the trouble is, it's like what people often say about pornography, "I may not be able to define it, but I'll sure know it when I see it." It seems that in recent years it has become more difficult to define what is ethical in the media, and this is so partly because media has become more diverse, and partly because the audience, loudly expressing opinions, has become more diverse.
Media, of course, is not one-way, but at least two-ways. A message is sent from the media and it is received by the individual reader or viewer. How it is received depends largely on the background and on the environment of the person receiving the message. And media is exploring ways to become interactive so that the receiver can send a message back to the sender. One message going out to as few as two people may be received differently by the two people depending on a great number of factors, such as differences in race, religion, gender, or economic circumstance; or because something was read out of context, or because someone had an argument with a spouse.
Last fall, FCC Chairman Reed Hunt spoke of the difficulty in defining what is ethical in the media when he spoke to the United Church of Christ in New York. According to a summary published in Digital Media, he noted our chaos of values and said, "As we are multilingual, so we are multiethnic. And as we are multiethnic, so we are multiethical." (Boy I'm glad I got through that sentence!) [laughter] This country has eighty different religious bodies, each with more than 60,000 members. They agree on some things but disagree on many others. When it comes to ethical codes, we have a heck of a lot more choice than in local telephony or cable TV markets. The chairman noted that the search for values must be, and can be, an individual quest, as we talked about this morning; that in order to live successfully in our complex society, we must communicate well enough so that all free and equal persons can come to a consensus about the way we govern ourselves. In other words, it is well worth our while to seek common ground for ethical behavior -- but it won't be easy.
Last fall, for example, the Associated Press managing editors voted to adopt a revised ethics code at their annual meeting. Approval came after what editor and publisher described as a brutal, well-publicized wrestling match that had started a couple of years earlier.
It seems to me that any discussion of media and ethics can go down at least two tracks: journalism and entertainment. And unfortunately the lines between the two are blurring. I contend that anything that keeps the reader or viewer from getting the full story is unethical, whether it's pressure from advertisers, sacred cows, reporter biases or rate-cutting. At the root of it, if it keeps us from getting the full story, it is unethical.
Sometimes it's not simply biases or pressures that restricts a reporter's story. Sometimes it's a matter of taking the quickest and easiest route of wanting to stay on the good side of a source, or falling under the spell of a glamourous beat as in Washington. I'm no fan of the Washington press corps, because I don't feel they go after their stories. They take, too often, what's handed to them.
I've long held the theory our nation came dangerously close to never learning why the Watergate break-in was much more than a penny-ante robbery. If The Washington Post did not assign two young metro reporters to the story and they had instead given it to its White House contingent, I believe the truth about Watergate as part of an elaborate dirty trick scheme would never have become known. The White House press corps, not known for its gum shoe abilities, would have written the episode off as a two-bit break in of the Democratic National Committee's office without wider implications. But as it turned out, the Post gave the story to two inexperienced young reporters: Bob Woodward, who, along with Carl Bernstein, handled the assignment, and was the lowest paid reporter on the newspaper.
I had the opportunity to meet Bob Woodward last year. He was spending the day at the DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana and I was on campus for a meeting to update us on the progress of DePauw's new center for contemporary media. The thrust of Mr. Woodward's remarks to the students and faculty was not about Watergate but about his contention that the press "was not up to the task before us" to explain what's going on. He said the media missed the big change in their pre-election coverage, and so failed to prepare readers and viewers about the momentous implications of the Republican sweep. The election, for my money, was covered as a horse race with almost all speculation confined to how many seats the Republicans would pick up in the House and Senate, and whether the Democrats were making a last minute surge. Almost nothing -- nothing at all -- was said about what would happen if the Republicans managed to control both chambers of Congress and how they would be likely to make their presence felt.
Mr. Woodward's view was that we in the media, as well as the recipients of our products, are too focused on the latest developments. But he said the latest is often irrelevant or untrue. What people want, Mr. Woodward said, is straight talk. Error, he said, is the trajectory of learning, but the problem is we don't have the culture to admit an error and then move on. After all, he added, inconsistencies are not unusual in life, although politicians and indeed journalists are loathe to admit them. What makes a good story, he emphasized, is the quality of the information. He said that as a young reporter he was able to cultivate his anonymous source in Watergate, Deep Throat, because "I had high quality information." "Information," he said, "has power -- not reporters."
It was Mr. Woodward's colleague on Watergate, Carl Bernstein, who shook the journalism world about three years ago with a devastating article titled "The Idiot Culture" in The New Republic. It was almost an aberration that the press cracked the Watergate case, he said, but for twenty years the press has engaged in a strange frenzy of self congratulations and defensiveness about its performance in that affair and afterward, Mr. Bernstein wrote. He contended that the press in the years since Watergate has gone a long way toward fostering a culture geared to the lowest common denominator. He says in covering actual existing American life, the media -- weekly, daily, hourly -- break new ground in getting it wrong. The coverage is distorted by celebrity, by the reduction of news to gossip, which is the lowest form of news, by sensationalism, which is always turning away from society's real condition, and by a political and social discourse that we, the press, the media, the politicians, and the people are turning into a sewer.
Now if Mr. Bernstein is right and the media is dishing out a steady diet of pabulum and worse, maybe it's because that's what everybody involved wants. Television anchormen and women feel comfortable with celebrity journalism and gossip because they're celebrities themselves and [thus] also the stuff of gossip. Their employers, the big, worldwide media conglomerates, have much bigger and grandiose corporate goals than serious journalism, which is fast becoming a by-product to mix and match with cross-marketing packages. And many readers and viewers are shutting off traditional media and getting their information from various subterranean sources: rock music, MTV, alternate newspapers. Even these tactics don't seem to be working very well.
Television viewership and newspaper and magazine readership continue to drift downward and things are likely to get worse as surviving media fight harder for the attention of a smaller portion of the total audience. The irony is that just as media technologies such as satellite transmission and multi-plant printing facilities have reached new heights of sophistication, our ability to discern what readers and viewers want to read and view has reached new depths of futility.
I feel that part of what's at fault here is the herd mentality. It seems a part of the human condition and it will not disappear. Anyone who enjoys some success will be immediately imitated or followed. If one good cop show comes along, or one good talk show comes along, you can be sure there will be others. If one medical drama works, why not try two? Reporters camp at the courthouse all to follow the same story.
And then there are the talk shows. Candidate Ross Perot was the one who woke us up to just how potent both radio and TV talk shows could be, and how easy it is to bypass the press and go directly to the people when running for higher office. The big trouble with talk shows is they're caught up in a vicious circle of trying to see which one can be most bizarre, and hope, of course, that they'll retain or gain viewers. Part of their problem, at least in television, is that tabloid shows, the junk food of journalism, are part of the competition. If we are going to worry about ethics we cannot overlook the talk shows. After the quiz scandal of 1958, the quiz and game shows pretty much cleaned up their acts but the talk shows are a mess, and they're vicious, and they are dragging all media down.
The show host, without the knowledge of training or professional help at hand, encourage conflict and revelations and easily get in over their heads, not knowing how far to go or how far they've already gone. Often they seem to be practicing therapy without a license and do not consider the best interests of their clients. The push for sensationalism in the unusual causes the show producers and the show host to step over the bounds time and time again.
As we talked about this morning, the latest sign of danger came just last week in the incident involving the Jenny Jones show when a secret infatuation led to murder. A Michigan man who agreed to come on the show to meet his secret admirer was apparently upset to discover during the taping that the admirer was another man. Three days after the taping, he shot the secret admirer, telling police the experience had eaten away at him. The show will not be aired -- so the producers say -- but do you want to bet? This incident, according to Columbia University journalism professor Stephen Isaacs, tells us that the media chaos is now total and that the "sleazification" that has been sweeping the land in the media for the last half-dozen years produces bizarre events that no one could possibly imagine. That's what I meant when I said to Jackie last night -- that reality is, by far, more bizarre than anything we can dream up.
And that brings me to another ethical question, since one of our publications, Advertising Age, has been accused of "outing" a gay. Unlike the tabloids, we have no special interests or desire to get into the sex life of anyone, but we will try to report what is relevant to our readers. And if someone's sex life has the potential to affect the businesses we cover, then we will write about it. In this case, sexual orientation was apparently relevant in the split between Jan and Jane Wenner, who together own Wenner Media and its flagship Rolling Stone. Their possible breakup could have an impact on marketing, advertising and media people, who read our publication, not to mention the Wenners' own company and publications. The fact that Mr. Wenner has left his wife for a boyfriend is significant in the context that he has promoted himself as a family man, with a wife and kids and who a few years ago started a magazine called Family Life. Within the last week, the Wenner's whole family life -- and here's part of the real continuing story for Ad Age -- we don't know if this signals a possible breakup or shake-up for the company.
Another famous publisher, the late Malcolm Forbes, was gay, but we never mentioned it. It wasn't relevant. His company or marriage were not on the verge of breaking up. If anything that keeps the reader from getting full story is unethical, then the question about sex is whether it's relevant to the story. In the case of politics, I say: Live by the bimbo—die by the bimbo. That, in a nutshell, should be the criteria reporters use to decide whether to blow the whistle on the politicians who play around.
It's nobody's business that a prospective supreme court justice smoked marijuana in college or even that a presidential candidate had a discreet affair. It is definitely out of bounds to ask a candidate if he or she has ever been unfaithful to a spouse. But it is relevant and legitimate when a politician displays a continuing pattern of hitching up with one floozie after another. It's relevant because a pattern of illicit trysts shows a lack of judgment that could affect the way a candidate conducts himself in office. You must admit that a relentless pursuit of sexual gratification might tend to take priority over running the ship of state. Talk about the public's right to know -- one of journalism's favorite phrases is, "Don't the American people have the right to know about any activity that could influence how politicians perform their duties as elected officials?"
For that matter, shouldn't business reporters use the same criterion when they evaluate the performance of corporate executives? If a chief executive has a serious drug or alcohol problem, that dependency will certainly affect his or her job performance, which will have substantial impact on the bottom line in the company's stock prices. Yet the press very rarely reports on the personal conduct of top management.
Some years ago, advertising aides reported that the chief executive of a major package goods company was fired by the board of directors because he was a drunk. We were severely criticized for printing the story. Yet his successors spent the next several years undoing some of his deals. Because the chief executive's behavior was the main reason for his dismissal, we decided we had to report it.
Media are blamed for raising expectations to an unrealistic level. A few months ago, Barry Diller, who got the Fox Network underway for Rupert Murdoch in 1988, said it probably would have failed if it was started today. It would have received such frenzied hype that Fox could have never lived up to expectations. Today, he suggested, there is an overpowering rush to judgment, and once a perception or event sets in it's hard to change it. Conventional wisdom is that the information super highway is off track, it's delayed, it's not meeting anyone's expectations. In an era of instant fulfillment, Barry Diller said, it's as if it was going to take place in an hour and a half.
If the press has to take partial blame for raising expectations, it also must take the rap for spreading cynicism and gullibility. Susan Estridge of the University of Southern California Law Center put it this way at a magazine conference several months ago: "Cynicism has become the national religion -- and you people have become the high priests and priestesses." She added "We all play the game of 'gotcha' with such fervor and skill, we're destroying public confidence in everything." The current issue of Columbia Journalism Review headlines the "Cynicism Run Rampant in a Generation of Vipers," and asks if cynicism is curable. The most negative analysis is that the cynicism of contemporary journalism is simply one facet of an increasingly cynical culture. A vicious circle may be at work here. Cynical coverage is tailored to a cynical public which makes the public more cynical and begets more cynical coverage. Future journalists absorb cynical values through the trashy pop culture of Hollywood and Madison Avenue. These days cynicism abounds even in comic books the article noted. The antidote for a future of spirit would seem to be belief and attachment to cosmic values. Today's generation of cynics in journalism and elsewhere seems afraid to believe. Well, if they're afraid to believe, maybe it's because we don't want to be disappointed.
The press is quick to pick up anything and run with it when it involves someone famous or important. It was what Anthony Lewis, writing in The New York Times, referred to as the "savaging of the great." He noted the case where a federal civil lawsuit was filed by a man who claimed he had been sexually abused as a teenager by Joseph Cardinal Bernadin, now head of the Catholic Church in Chicago, and after much damaging publicity, the suit, based on dubious claims of therapeutically recovered memory, was dropped. Responsible journalism is not stenography, Mr. Lewis said. It requires judgment on the credibility of sources and of claims. The press learned that in the heyday of Senator Joe McCarthy. They learned that it was not honest to keep reporting the scurrilous charges without putting them in the context of his record. The Bernadin case suggests that the lesson must be constantly relearned. But while we may rush to knock over pedestals on the one hand, the failure of the press to tell the whole story may keep pedestals intact or keep a certain spin to a story when it should be checked.
Several months ago, Christina Hoff Summers, author of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, accused magazine editors of abandoning their critical faculties. She said that editors displayed uncritical credulity toward feminist claims and causes and are extremely wary of anything contrary. She said journalists have a saying, "When your mother says she loves you, check it out." "What's happened to that?", Miss Summers asked.
And the sports world is not immune. The recent revelations about Darryl Strawberry and his parting teammates are sad testament to the players and to the sports writers who follow them. Mr. Strawberry, the onetime star outfielder for the New York Mets, was quoted in a Sports Illustrated article that the Mets were a team full of drunks when he played with them. Strawberry said he played games when he was drunk or just getting off a drink or coming down off amphetamines. So what's new? Baseball has had a tradition of attracting hard-living, hard-drinking, women-chasing guys. Some, downright mean -- like Ty Cobb. Why shouldn't we expect anything different today?
For one thing, yesterday's players weren't paid a million dollars a year. For that kind of money fans have a right to demand maximum performance -- undiluted by drugs or booze. But where were New York's crusading sports journalists when the Mets were living it up? Apparently it was an open secret that players were not averse to a good time after the game. The problem is that athletes have been coddled their whole lives and they expect and get the same treatment from sports writers. The jocks will refuse to give reporters their usual stockpile of inane quotes if the newspapers write anything of a probing nature about the players' off-field activities. I think in some ways baseball is getting to be like wrestling. You can't believe what you see and you can't believe what you read. No wonder nobody seems in much of a hurry to return to baseball.
If you believe that readers, viewers, and consumers are entitled to the full story -- as I do -- then how can we not be outraged by marketers, by advertisers who hide their identity? It should not be done, but it should be noted that media allows this to happen. I'm talking here about companies like Phillip Morris, Miller Brewing and E&J Gallo. Phillip Morris, the push-and-do discount cigarette called "Dave's" has fabricated Dave's Tobacco Company with good old country boy promotional and ad support. No mention of the real company name on the package or in the advertising. Miller, a unit of Philip Morris, is using the name "Plank Row Brewery" to hide from what it hopes will be the market for its Red Dog brand. Gallo's best known use of the technique was those good old boys "Bartles & Jaymes" who used to sell wine coolers and there was nary a reference to the Gallo corporate name. And I'm afraid much of the new interactive media will blur the distinction even further between advertising and entertainment.
There's one more issue I feel must be raised when we discuss ethics in the media: Vertical integration has come to the communications business. Not only will the consumer goods companies, like Coca Cola, control the distribution chain for their major products, but they may also control the TV shows and even the TV or cable stations where they were advertised, or in this new interactive age, the CD-ROMs they could send out to interested consumers of Coca Cola. Worse still, the ownership of the channels of communication by even larger, more powerful media conglomerates increases the danger of a hidden agenda or the perception of a hidden agenda in what we get from the media.
For example, here's a hypothetical dilemma: A newspaper used to support a candidate because it believed he was right. But when the paper is part of a huge conglomerate, we are left to wonder about motives, about their hidden agenda. Or if a politician has the power to influence rules for station ownership, should that politician sign a lucrative book deal with a conglomerate that's in both businesses? The deal may be perfectly legitimate but it raises the perception of something wrong, and breaks down trust in the media. Will a magazine or newspaper withhold a story entirely because it's unfavorable to the conglomerate that owns it? Will we know if the story is withheld? The Tribune Company out in Chicago owns the Chicago Cubs. Even if the Chicago Tribune coverage of the baseball strike does not favor the owners' position, there's a perception of feeling that readers won't get the full story.
I'm afraid that I've asked more questions today than I've answered. In summary, please keep in mind that the docudrama which will absorb you for the rest of the day is only part of the story -- but it's a good place to start, if only because the quiz show scandals were the end of the age of innocence and the beginning of the age of cynicism. I'm honored to be here as part of your discussion. Thank you very much. [applause]
My name is Albert Maysles and I'll be part of the panel later on. I make documentary movies. I very rarely attend panels. However, I was in California last week. I spent three days attending panels on biography, which of course is a form of literature and journalism, and all the issues of ethics that were brought up there. In this half hour [today], I must say that I learned more straight talk and good information on the questions of ethics than in the three days that I spent at the School of Journalism in California. Congratulations. [applause and laughter]
... Especially that word "cynicism." We're enveloped in it, we're taken over by it. It's terrible. Thank you.
Hi. My name is Paula Attridge. You didn't touch on infomercials and their evolution and where they're going, and I was just curious how you think they're going to evolve in the future?
Infomercials are part of what I was talking about. I am quite concerned about the blurring of entertainment and information, and infomercials and the home shopping networks are part of that.
I attended a conference last Friday on the future of interactivity and how the advertisers can get involved in this kind of thing. And I was, frankly, a little bit startled, because a year ago the advertising community thought they were going to be shut out. They thought that it was going to be an adless future as far as interactivity in the new media was concerned. But as I said in the column that will run in Monday's Advertising Age, I got the idea that they were sort of emboldened now, and that they felt that they could actually control the new media.
Here's how it's going to happen: Proctor and Gamble, for instance, makes Vicks products. It would have a CD-ROM, and it would do an interactive type of program on the five stages of the common cold, and it would talk about how each of its products could be used at a various stage of the cold. And there wouldn't be any mention necessarily that Proctor and Gamble were sponsoring this, or that this was, indeed, basically a commercial.
That differs so much than the way it's done now, because -- as we all know -- [today's] commercial appears on a program with other entertainment, and it's easily discerned when the commercial comes on and when the entertainment comes on. But I'm really quite concerned that in this new video age that those distinctions are fast blurring. The ad guys, I must tell you, seem to be very upbeat about this new future and they've gone from thinking that they were going to be on the outside looking in to saying, "Hey, we're on the inside and we're controlling the situation."
As for one other point that you didn't ask: If I were an ad agency right now, I would wonder about my future, because, "Do we really need ad agencies to put together CD-ROMs on the five stages of the common cold?" I think not.
I have two questions. My name is Mark. I'm a student of Dr. Payne's. In regard to floozies first, I'm curious: Where does one draw the line? I think the point was you have to look at whether the floozie is affecting the person's job or a number of floozies? I'm not sure... It wasn't quite clear to me where one draws the line there.
The second thing I wanted to ask about is in regard to the Wenners and the breakup. Reading in the paper, would it really have been such a big deal if he had taken up with another woman? In other words, is it not bigger news because he's taken up with a man?
And if so, does that go along with what you were saying?
I think either way it would have been reported. I thought this was a very interesting thing to do, but right after that happened a guy who writes a column for us took up basically what you said and called up the editor or publisher of a gay publication, and he said he was thinking of outing him by saying he was going out with a woman, and the guy was stunned! And he couldn't believe it -- he said that's irrelevant -- that doesn't matter. And indeed it doesn't matter but if it is relevant, if the company is falling apart or could be broken up, it's relevant either way. I think that, if he took up with a man or he took up with a woman.
More than that though, Jan Wenner has made no secret about the fact that he has taken up with this Calvin Klein executive. He hasn't tried to hide it. If he hasn't tried to hide it, and it's relevant to the story, I think it certainly should be reported. And basically, it has -- widely. And I didn't answer the first question. I'm sorry...
Is it more relevant -- because it's a man -- or is it equally relevant?
The first question was in regard to floozies.
"If you knew floozie like I know floozie" ...
But again -- where does one draw the line? Who makes the decision?
It's a matter of judgment. It's simply a matter of judgment. Should the press have reported JFK's escapades, where he had a revolving door with one woman after another? Should they have reported that? Did that reflect on his ability to do his job? Do [current] charges reflect on Bill Clinton's ability to do the job? Does it reflect on his judgment? I think it's a matter of judgment more than sexual escapades here that we're talking about.
Does the press have a right to make that decision?
The press has to make the decision, because it's their job and...
But still, you're not unnerved that there are no guidelines?
There are no guidelines...
One or two indiscretions might be OK? But to somebody else, even more, or even the candidates, could be the subject of...
Let's hope that we don't have so much experience in that area that we get to have guidelines. I would hope that would be an aberration that we wouldn't have to go into that often.
But I would think that just because one reporter reports one or two indiscretions, it doesn't mean that the rest of the media should pick up the story. There again, it's the herd mentality and reporters in the press have to pick their spots and have to feel that what they report is relevant and responsible, and if it's not, just because the next guy is reporting, it doesn't mean they should.
I just wanted to mention, insofar as disclosure [standards are concerned:] Many years ago the Idaho Statesman had an interesting disclosure [rule], in which they had their reporters write in their own backgrounds and say, for instance, what their political biases were, [or] if they worked on the campaign of John Jones. It has been interesting that no other newspaper has followed that since, and given some of the other things you mentioned -- such as infomercials.
During many years the TV show The FBI was sponsored by Ford. If you watched it very closely the FBI agents always had Ford cars, the bad guys had other cars. There are other tie-ins like that. I was wondering, do you think that there should be something of a disclosure in the media? For instance, when Time magazine did a story on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and did a five or six page spread on it, they did not mention the fact that the movie company that produced it was part of the same conglomerate of Time magazine -- which perhaps might be of interest to a reader who might think they were pumping their own product.
I think there should be disclosures, and I think that if there are disclosures it gives the media more credibility. Then it's all reported, it's no secret, and the reader gets the idea that the publication isn't trying to hide something. I notice, for instance, [that in] a great publication like The Wall Street Journal, whenever any of their reporters are mentioned in other contexts, or that something else of a related nature happens, they always say that. They always say "so-and-so, by the way, works for The Wall Street Journal," so that the reader can draw his or her own conclusion about the reliability of the information.
Thanks again. [applause]