An online newspaper editor is setting a horrible example for citizen journalists who want to cover news in their communities.
Ian Murphy, editor of the reportedly left-leaning Buffalo Beast website based in Buffalo, N.Y., failed to identify himself correctly before interviewing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about the debate surrounding public-employee unions that led Democratic state senators to leave the state to stop a vote.
According to an Associated Press report in The Denver Post on Thursday, Feb. 24, Walker thought he was talking to a conservative billionaire named David Koch, not the editor of an online newspaper.
In the interview, Walker reportedly described several ways to pressure Democrats to return to the state Capitol and said his supporters had considered planting people in the protest crowds to stir up trouble.
After he learned the interviewer was not who he thought, Walker was quoted as saying: “The things I said are the things I’ve said publicly all the time.”
So Murphy didn’t really get any fantastic scoop from his unethical conduct, which he told the AP he did to show how candid Walker would speak to a conservative while refusing to return calls from Democrats.
This incident reminds me why I am so passionate in my role as a trainer for the National Association of Citizen Journalists. I don’t want citizen journalists to learn how to be journalists from folks like Murphy. Deception is not the way to do journalism.
So please, if you are a practicing or aspiring citizen journalist, identify yourself correctly before interviewing folks. Honesty is the only way to be ethical and respected. And that’s the only way to be a journalist – professional or citizen.
Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).