Here’s the media matters rundown on how veteran journalists are reacting to Jonathan Karl’s exploits last week:
The slippery language Karl and ABC News adopted in describing the emails has drawn fire from media ethicists and veteran journalists.
“At best, it’s extremely sloppy. At worst, it’s a deliberate attempt to conceal the secondhand — and possibly distorted — nature of the information ABC was relying on so as to put its shoulder to the wheel of a highly prejudicial reading of the affair,” said Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Miami Herald columnist. “Whether best or worst is true, it’s highly problematic ethically, and the failure to acknowledge and correct is even worse.”
Tim McGuire, journalism professor at Arizona State University and former president of the American Society of News Editors, criticized Karl for failing to adhere to basic standards of ethics.
“If the ethical journalist is dedicated to transparency Mr. Karl seems to have failed that standard,” he said in an email. “The Benghazi story raises such trust issues anyway it seems to me all the details of what Mr. Karl saw are crucial to both sides.”
Tom Fiedler, dean of the Boston University College of Communication and former Miami Herald executive editor, said Karl’s report “cries out for a correction.”
“Karl was sloppy – or being deliberately ambiguous – about these e-mails to enhance the ‘exclusive’ he claimed to have,” Fiedler said. “Most important here is whether the ‘summaries’ of the e-mails cast a different light on the event than the e-mails themselves.”
Fiedler said that Karl’s reporting has suffered from its inconsistent and at times false descriptions of what he had reviewed.
“At minimum, Karl should have acknowledged on the air and in his on-line postings that he had only seen (or had read to him) summaries, and that he couldn’t say whether those summaries were in context of the original e-mails,” he added. “This caveat is no small thing as Karl could well have left himself vulnerable to being used for political purposes.”
Kevin Smith, chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee, called it “inaccurate reporting.”
“I don’t understand how you can claim to have the emails but then backtrack and say you were quoting from summaries,” he said. “What was the fact when you initially reported – had the emails or summaries? Were you trumping up the story? Did you know the difference and if you did, why did you misrepresent? In the end I’d say there is a serious credibility issue with ABC’s reporting on this issue.”
So how has Karl reacted? By giving you, me, and everyone else the middle finger:
Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, addressed criticism of his reporting on the Benghazi talking points controversy, saying in a statement to CNN that he regrets the inaccuracy of his report.
“Clearly, I regret the email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it’s become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands. I should have been clearer about the attribution. We updated our story immediately,” he said in the statement to Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
I guess when it is someone as ethically challenged as Howard Kurtz holding your feet to the fire, you probably just think you can tell people to piss off and be done with the whole matter.
What happened is clear. Karl lied to us because he trusted his source. His source, however, burned him, and Karl’s lie was exposed. Instead of burning his source to show that he takes this matter seriously and won’t be lied to again, he is doubling down and protecting his source, because as we all know with our current media, access is more important to accuracy.
If the editors at ABC News had any damned integrity, Karl would be forced to expose his source, apologize, and then take a couple weeks off. Maybe some summer school ethics course.