by Whet Moser
The consensus, save for Eric Zorn, on the Amy Jacobson affair seems to be that she crossed the line. I think she crossed several, but just barely, creating a perfect storm of minor ethical violations.
None of them, I would submit, are gruesome professional offenses, though they do throw Jacobson's judgment into question. And if all this seems like overreaction, that's why it may not be. All news institutions really have is their word, and every day readers believe the stuff they print or broadcast, on the assumption that the institutions are doing their best to ensure the accuracy of the content.
Writers and reporters may jump to air these issues in public partly because it's a chance to show what principles journalists have and how they put them into practice. If they go overboard, maybe it's because these opportunities for transparent self-regulation are fortunately uncommon. (Surely it puts the Fear into other journalists, making them less likely to screw up.)
No matter what happens with Jacobson, however, I hope a more important principle doesn't get lost. As Steve Rhodes puts it (scroll down): "The real problem? The energy and resources invested in soap opera tabloid voyeurism disguised as journalism." It's simply unnecessary; that's why God made Law & Order.