Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just Wondering?...Orlando Sentinel Sets the Record Straight

Yesterday, I wrote about Scott Powers, the Orlando Sentinel reporter who was locked in a closet during a fundraiser that Vice President Joe Biden attended in central Florida.  I wondered if the reporter would have left the closet incident out of the initial story if aides to former Vice President Dick Cheney had locked him in the closet.

The Sentinel responded with information I didn't know, and now it is my obligation, as it should be for anyone who posts anything publicly, to set the record straight.

The Orlando Sentinel certainly did not play favorites in this event.  In fact, the newspaper had pictures of the closet posted on its website before the event was over.  Evidently, the reporter was able to use his cell phone device to take a picture of the closet and transmit it to his editor.  The reporter also was featured on ABC's "Good Morning America," which did a story on the embarrassing incident.

One thing I have always believed during my career as a journalist and as a professional communicator is that when you have new information, you don't hide it; you report it and correct the record, or, at least, update it.  I did not have all the information I have now when I posted my blog yesterday on the Florida scenario.  Now that I do, I have reported it, and I would like to thank the wonderful people at the Orlando Sentinel for responding in  a very professional manner and enabling me to update the story.

In my opinion, a journalist’s first obligation is to go where the facts lead you, no matter where they lead, and if you can’t do that for whatever reason, you should ask to be taken off the story, so another reporter can pick up the pieces and move on.  If I may be so bold to add my own definition of journalism, I believe journalism should really be a never-ending search for the truth, and I mean never-ending because we will always find with new information that can change what we once believed to be the truth.

I’m not suggesting that journalists and bloggers cannot draw conclusions before they have scoured the universe for every last piece of information on a subject.  That would lead to an unreasonable intellectual paralysis.  But they should be open to exploring every avenue of information.  If one becomes an advocate or participant for any point of view—liberal, conservative or otherwise—that person is more likely to become intellectually invested in a certain outcome and tend to ignore or marginalize any evidence that counters his or her advocacy position.

I admit to having a certain point of view.  However, I am obligated to you, the reader, to never let that point of view keep me from writing what I know to be correct.  As a blogger, I should adhere to the same axiom that I expect journalists to follow, and so I have.  If I were to find out more information in the future on this incident, I will post another story on it.

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