Everyone Makes Mistakes. Unless You’re A Journalist.

You’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t heard about Kathie Lee’s recent interview gone awry with Martin Short on The Today Show. As a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a Journalist, I hold myself to high standards when it comes to my craft. During my time at the Cronkite School, I was taught a journalistic code of ethics by the “Most Trusted Man in America” and those lessons resonate with me today. As consummate professionals, it is important that we always look towards continuous improvement. We should never allow ourselves to become complacent, to stop furthering and perfecting our craft.

When it comes to successful Journalism, it is imperative to understand the rules that serve as the cornerstone for which our trade was built upon:

1.      Plagiarism is bad. You will lose your job. You will be blackballed. Don’t do it.

2.      Have a moral compass. Write and speak with integrity.

3.      Do not preach what you do not practice. PC fan? Don’t write a write-up on how life changing the new iPad is, or how the iTouch is your go-to gym accessory. Readers (or viewers) will sense your insincerity and you’ll lose credibility!

4.      Fact Check! It is our responsibility to verify all information before our fingers strike the keys or before the words leave our mouths. While a correction can always be issued as a last ditch effort, words cannot be retracted. Kathie Lee’s twitter apology, in my opinion, did not detract from the lack of preparation and due diligence on her part (or the intern tasked with providing her with the facts).

When errors such as this occur, confidence and respect are lost. There is a small margin of error for Journalists and while the Cronkite School might have it right with its zero tolerance policy, the real-world is slightly more ambiguous. If a student is found to have engaged in any academic dishonesty of any kind, they are terminated with zero chance of reinstatement. I am going to assume that The Today Show does not have a zero tolerance policy and Kathy Lee will in fact keep her position. So what will happen to her? Chances are she will probably continue her daytime segment with Hoda as they discuss such important topics as which Spanx product is the most tummy taming or booty boosting. Yet I think it would be a wasted opportunity to not learn something from this unfortunate incident.

What we can all take away from Kathie Lee’s faux pas is that there are no shortcuts. Taking the time to do your homework and know who you’re interviewing is always the way to go. From the small time blogger to the daytime anchorwoman, we cannot afford to disregard our values of excellence, integrity, accuracy, fairness, and objectivity for the sake of entertainment.

And that’s the way it is.

By, Jennifer Cohen

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