Talking "journalistic ethics" (giggle) is tantamount to a parlor game for me. It’s a losing pastime because there is no journalism judge, jury or definitive ruling body to make the final call.
In fact, what the digital age has shown is that ANYONE can practice journalism and those old talk shows on PBS – full of hot air regarding the state of "journalism" – don’t really have any more insight than anybody else.
It’s not rocket science. When The Founders first developed their adherence to the principles of free speech, the "media" had even more "citizen journalists" than today, and corporate gatekeepers had yet to find a way to control and limit the opinion of the masses.
Still, along the way there have been customs and mores developed that are still prized by most people practicing journalism. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today.
The question: Is it kosher that current blogger and former Star reporter Jim Fitzpatrick is making significant donations to a KC Mayoral Candidate but only finally noted his contributions in one, tiny reference last week?
Just so picky, white, angry KCC readers don’t think I’m making this up I’ve pulled the Missouri Ethics Commission Record to back up my claim. The record shows Fitzpatrick maxed out his contribution level. However, Fitzpatrick didn’t note his love for Burke was backed up with cash until around Valentine’s Day. AFTER he had given 1,000 bucks. Fitz gave Burke $3,000 total, the maximum allowed by Kansas City election law.
And while Fitzpatrick repeatedly criticizes mainstream media like the Star for deviating from old school journalistic standards, in the case of his support of Burke he’s gone native with his biases like an untrained blogger.
This isn’t the first time Fitz has encountered an "issue" regarding cash and journalism.
I don’t want to get into ancient history but there is a persistent story about a front page correction from no less than former Star editor and current New York Times public editor Art Brisbane offering an apology for Fitzpatrick using his cash on some story that I don’t even remember. The story, when relayed to me,. actually seemed very enterprising. But I guess journalism purists find fault with reporters using their own resources to help make the news. I get that but don’t really understand it.
My verdict. Nobody else much really noticed Fitzpatrick’s persistent endorsement of Burke so I guess it’s not a big deal.
Jim is retired, so he probably doesn’t want a job as press secretary and he doesn’t own a construction firm or belong to a union so these significant donations should maybe seem a little less devious.
Furthermore, because Fitz was writing in blog form and offering opinion THE RESPONSIBILITY RESTS WITH THE READER to make their own judgements about the veracity of what’s being published. What I like about blogs is that this questioning of source material is implicit, whereas in the paper, for some stupid reason, people tend to MISTAKENLY believe that everything published is fact.
Finally, Fitz did cop to his big money donations even though nobody was asking and that shows some integrity on his part.
However, what we see from this voyage from Star to blog for a former Big Time Reporter is that it’s not "journalism" people want but well-researched and thoughtful content. Nowadays most J-Schools concede that "objectivity is a myth" and reporters aren’t robots simply spewing out facts.
Instead, Fitzpatrick shows us that some people can respect the opinion of a former newsman, forgive his obvious bias if they choose, and take what they want from his writing.
Whether through social media, blogging or any electronic format, what’s clear is that old standards aren’t really being degraded. They’ve been abandoned wholesale. And a former newsman is quickly learning that bias and big money gambles are at the heart of the local, online discourse.