Editorial: Journalists should act with integrity


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When journalist Katie Couric edited out controversial quotes made by late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during a 2016 interview, Couric did a disservice to Americans by wanting to “protect” Ginsburg rather than carry out her duty as a journalist. 

Couric’s decision to edit the quotes based on personal biases is not how journalism works. As a student newspaper, the Northern Star Editorial Board believes that biases must be checked at the door when it’s time to report on a news story, especially one that involves a high-profile person. 

Couric made headlines this month after she admitted in her new memoir, “Going There,” that she purposefully omitted comments made by Ginsburg, who disagreed with Black athletes such as Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem. Couric admitted in her memoir that she was conflicted because she was a “big RBG fan.”

Ginsburg told Couric in 2016 that the players showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.” 

While not everything that’s said in an interview is notable for being reported, Ginsburg’s remarks were newsworthy and should not have been cut because of Couric’s personal affection towards Ginsburg. And, as a journalist, Couric had a responsibility to publish the omitted quotes, no matter how it made Ginsburg look.

Couric’s confession came at a time when ESPN reporter Adam Schefter came under fire for sharing an unpublished story with a source before it ran and solicited suggestions on that story, which is against journalism ethics and standards. 

The role of journalists is to gather facts and honestly present that information. And in many cases, journalists should be courageous when holding those in power accountable. Ethical journalists should act with integrity. 

Quietly editing a public figure’s remarks to protect the person is unethical to journalism’s core principles. Most reporters should understand this. Most newsrooms –– including the Northern Star –– follow The Associated Press Stylebook, where we “abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions” when it comes to reporting and adding quotes into stories. 

It’s not a journalist’s job to protect a subject they’re covering, and this kind of source protection will only reinforce the public’s distrust in the media. Maintaining the public’s trust as a news organization comes at a vital time, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. Gallup reported this month that Americans’ trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly has edged down 4% since last year to 36%, making this year’s reading the second-lowest mark on record. 

When a journalist’s motives aren’t in the public’s best interest, they forfeit Americans’ trust. As young journalists ourselves, the Northern Star Editorial Board is committed to accurate reporting, being accountable, presenting the truth and guarding against subjective inaccuracies — and we hope veteran journalists can do the same.