Editorial: Journalists must act with integrity

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

Couric’s decision to edit quotes based on personal bias is not the way journalism works. As a student newspaper, the Northern Star’s editorial board believes that bias should be checked at the door when it’s time to report on a story, especially one that involves a high-profile person.

Couric made the headlines this month after admitting in her new memoir, ‘Going There’, that she deliberately omitted comments from 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 had shown “contempt for a government that allowed their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.”

While not everything said in an interview is notable for reporting, Ginsburg’s remarks were newsworthy and should not have been cut due to Couric’s personal affection for Ginsburg. And, as a reporter, Couric had a responsibility to publish the omitted quotes, regardless of Ginsburg’s appearance.

Couric’s confession came at a time when ESPN reporter Adam Schefter came under fire for sharing an unpublished story with a source before it aired and soliciting suggestions on that story, which is unethical and against the standards of journalism.

The role of journalists is to gather facts and present this information honestly. And in many cases, journalists need to be brave in holding those in power to account. Ethical journalists must act with integrity.

Discreetly altering a public figure’s remarks to protect the person is unethical to fundamental principles of journalism. Most journalists should understand this. Most newsrooms –– including the Northern Star –– follow the Associated Press style book, where we “abhor inaccuracies, negligence, bias or distortion” when reporting. and add citations to articles.

It is not a journalist’s job to protect a story they cover, and this kind of source protection will only reinforce public distrust of the media. Maintaining public trust as a news organization comes at a crucial time, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. Gallup reported this month that Americans’ trust in the media to report the news in a complete, accurate and fair manner fell slightly from 4% since last year to 36%, making this year’s reading the second-lowest rating on record.

When a journalist’s motives are not in the public interest, he loses the trust of Americans. As young journalists ourselves, the Northern Star editorial board is committed to accurate reporting, accountability, presenting the truth and guarding against subjective inaccuracies – and we hope that seasoned journalists can do the same.