Thursday, May 12, 2005

When a journalist falls, it's a big crash

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A columnist at the Sacramento Bee newspaper was sacked yesterday (well, she resigned) after an editor questioned whether some of the people she was writing about actually existed. The newpaper decided after "extensive online database searches as well as old-fashioned shoe-leather work," that they couldn't confirm the people weren't a figment of Diana Griego-Erwin's imagination.

This from the same newspaper that once hired an optics expert to prove that a image on the wall of a Catholic church in Colfax, Calif. (that many people believed was a likeness of the Virgin Mary) was not created by a 'miracle,' but simply by a bending of light rays. Investigative journalism at its best.

It is sad to see any journalist on the receiving end of a witchhunt like this, even if they did start to mix unreality with reality. Diana pounded out columns for years, looking at the soft side of life, earning the nickname 'Fluffy,' partly because of her bouffant hairdoo, partly because her columns were generally a little light. But I have a hard time believing she actually created people to make her points. Still, who can argue with that "old-fashioned shoe-leather work." After all, it dispelled a miracle in Colfax and I feel a lot safer knowing how vigilant the editors at the Sacramento Bee are. Who wants columns with made up people? If I want fiction, I'll watch Fox News.

The danger to society is that already waaaaaay too-cautious journalists pull in their horns just a little more when this happens. Never mind that many politicians and government officials lie without the slightest hesitation - and just smirk when they are caught (Smirk? Who could I be talking about?). No, if a journalist gets a quote wrong, or confuses who they talked with what day, or maybe just thinks they talked with someone and didn't, well, hang 'em, the high court of ethics says. Hang 'em high.

I'm not sure we are well served by this at all.

See the Sacramento Bee's editor's opinion:
  • Editor's view
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