Message to journalists: Don’t lie

By · Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Rep. Anthony Weiner

Did Rep. Anthony Weiner, who has admitted to having inappropriate online exchanges with women, violate House rules?

Should he resign?

Is this a matter between only his wife and him?

These are among major questions raised in the aftermath of Weiner’s public admission, which followed his repeated denials.

The question that stands out for me, however, is a matter of trust.

Consider this comment from an (albeit) anonymous Democratic Congressional source, quoted in a New York Times story today. The source said Weiner was too late with his confession.

“It’s hard to trust in an individual who already lied.”

We tell students at the Newhouse School repeatedly, in discussions about ethics, plagiarism and fabrication, that lying is a killer. Once a person lies, why should anyone believe anything that came before or that will come after? Journalism is based on trust, as is public service. Sources and journalists must trust one another. Readers must trust what they read, hear and view. Without trust, credibility is lost.

In 29 days, the incoming master’s students at the Newhouse School will start Day One of boot camp, an intensive news writing and reporting course that runs for six weeks. These journalism students will report and write stories of all kinds, in print and online, and they will publish a major multimedia project. They will be under pressure and on deadline just about every day. They will hear from us the admonition not to lie. They will be told the consequences if they do.

Just as Weiner was in control of his own destiny, whether these journalism students listen will be totally up to them.

Emilie Davis



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