WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 22 – Activist actor Sean Penn should be used to controversial media coverage by now, considering some of the outrageous statements he has made over the past few years. But his recent attempt to identify himself as a journalist after publishing an “interview” with drug kingpin El Chapo caused quite a stir, said Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens.
“Penn is no journalist and the narrative he penned [apology] is what the Statesman Journal described in an editorial as ‘a vanity project, movie treatment, friendly chat between celebrity and sociopath.’ Whatever you call it, Penn’s antics put a new focus on the quality of media coverage in the 21st Century, a time when so-called citizen journalists abound on the Internet and social media. They lack sources, report rumors as fact and put pressure on traditional reporters to get on top of the story, whatever it may be,” according to Weber.
Penn insisted that you don’t need a license to practice journalism, the AMAC chief noted. But, he added, reporters do need integrity. “It’s their job to provide the facts; it is our prerogative to interpret those facts. We don’t need their spin.”
It is interesting to note that it was Rolling Stone magazine that published Penn’s article, the same publication that got into trouble last fall as the result of an article written by one of its own reporters, Sabrina Rubin Erdely. She claimed that a young woman was raped in a University of Virginia fraternity house. But, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism conducted an independent inquiry and found that the story was made up.
“It was no mistake on Erdely’s part. She was using the fabricated rape to make a point: that sexual assault is a problem on many college campuses. It was not a very honest or ethical way to deal with such an important problem,” said Weber.
And then there was the incident involving George Stephanopoulos at ABC-TV News. Everyone knows that he was had long-standing ties to the Clinton family, but few knew he had been contributing tens of thousands of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Stephanopoulos used his position as a “reporter” to take on Clinton critic Peter Schweizer who authored the book, Clinton Cash.
Even the liberal New York Times described the incident as a case of Stephanopoulos “facing accusations that he was effectively trying to buy favor with his former employers as Mrs. Clinton seeks the presidency for a second time.”
Without integrity journalists become irrelevant, Weber explained. They become “partisan hacks, hitmen for personal causes. More important, they erode the confidence the public has in them and in all news reporters.
The majority of journalists adhere to the rules and stick to the facts; they know that there’s swift justice for writers who stray. But, too many reporters have been taking liberties in recent years and getting away with it, especially some of those who cover social and political issues.
“Indeed, news reporters do not need a license to practice their profession, but they are bound by a code of ethics. They must stick to the facts. They do not take advantage of the stories they are covering to promote a personal agenda. The integrity principle needs to be taken seriously by those who would be news men and women and, if they stray, there are editors who strictly enforce the code. Editorials are for the editorial pages,” Weber concluded.
The Association of Mature American Citizens [http://www.amac.us] is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organization that takes its marching orders from its members. We act and speak on their behalf, protecting their interests and offering a practical insight on how to best solve the problems they face today. Live long and make a difference by joining us today at http://amac.us/join-amac.