62 Journalistic Sins or Why Marvin Kalb Is Wrong About the Internet

Randall Hoven at American Thinker has a catalog of over 60 instances of journalistic malfeasance and takes to task journalist Marvin Kalb's famous lament from 1998 that the Internet would usher in an era of damage to the media's ability to put forward "reliable, substantiated information." Below are 10 of the 62 Hoven cites:

Offenses include lying and fabricating, doctoring photos, plagiarism, conflicts of interest, falling for hoaxes, and overt bias. Some are hilarious, such as an action figure doll being mistaken for a real soldier. Some are silly, such as reporting on a baseball game watched on TV. Some are more serious.

I leave it to you to judge whether the internet damaged "journalism's ability to do its job professionally", as Marvin Kalb accuses, or if the internet has in fact helped expose an already damaged "profession".

I doubt if my list is comprehensive, but I think it's a good start. So that I'm not accused of plagiarism myself, I would like to give credit to Wikipedia for many of the entries on this list. And all the information below can be found with a little internet searching; I just could not find it all in one place. I do give at least one source for each item, embedded in the text.
  1. Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press (2005). Lying/fabricating. In his sports column, he described alumni players at a basketball game who were not even there.
  2. Stephen Ambrose, historian/author (2002). Plagiarism. He was almost a book "factory", writing eight books in five years. But that apparently came easier when parts were copied from other books, without attribution.
  3. Associated Press (AP) (2005). Fell for hoax and phony photo. The AP ran a story, with a photo, about a soldier held hostage in Iraq. The photo turned out to be that of an action figure doll; there was no such soldier.
  4. Mike Barnicle, Boston Globe (1998). Lying/fabricating and plagiarism. Totally made up stories, including one about a black kid and a white kid with cancer. Also used quotes from George Carlin as his own. Fired from the Boston Globe.
  5. Maria Bartiromo, CNBC (2007). Conflict of interest. She dated a Citicorp executive and received special treatment from him, and also owned stock in Citicorp while doing financial reporting for CNBC, including reporting on Citicorp.
  6. Scott Beauchamp, The New Republic (2007). Lying. TNR hired this U.S. Army private and husband of one of its own reporters to write first-hand accounts from Iraq. One of his accounts, supposedly demonstrating the dehumanizing effects of the Iraq war on him and fellow soldiers, occurred in Kuwait before Beauchamp even entered Iraq. Other parts of his writing are likely false, and if not, constitute military crimes on his part. In fact, his anonymous writing from a war zone is likely against military rules. This story is currently unfolding.
  7. Nada Behziz, The Bakersfield Californian (2005). Lying/fabricating and plagiarism. Writing mostly on health issues, she plagiarized from the New York Times and AP, made up sources, and got basic facts wrong. An investigation counted 29 fabricated or plagiarized articles. She also lied on her resume. She was fired.
  8. Michael Bellesiles, professor of history, author of Arming America and recipient of Columbia University's Bancroft Prize. Lying/fabricating. He made "myth shattering" claims about the history of guns in America that were based on fabricated historical records. He resigned from Emory University.
  9. Joe Biden, U.S. Senator and candidate for President (1988). Plagiarism. He withdrew from the 1988 presidential race after being discovered "delivering, without attribution, passages from a speech by British Labor party leader Neil Kinnock... a serious plagiarism incident involving Biden during his law school years; the senator's boastful exaggerations of his academic record at a New Hampshire campaign event; and the discovery of other quotations in Biden's speeches pilfered from past Democratic politicians." He's still a Senator, and back in the race for 2008.
  10. Jayson Blair, The New York Times (2003). Lying/fabricating. He fabricated parts or all of at least 36 stories. He, along with his bosses Gerald Boyd and Howell Raines, resigned from the NYT.


Media Scandals Journalistic Issues Scott Thomas Beauchamp Marvin Kalb