October 22nd, 2005

Illustmaker me

Shades, Chapter Eight: Interlude (2): Charity, pt. 2

Remus has claimed a run down shed in the woods, and the child werewolves have started to wander over to it. The morning before transformation, one of the older wolves, a woman called Mag, has brought back a charity box from a priest in a nearby village, and Remus comes back to the shed (after a check-in at the Burrow) to find the children going through it. He refuses to take anything. He has learned--or, well, Bill has, and has passed it on--several things about the children, including several names and stories of their parents. He doesn't think it will do them much good to know in several cases.

In the course of looking through the charity haul, they find books, and Remus discovers that Alderman can read (somewhat) and a few of the others seem interested in the concept. One, Hamilton, is hostile, claiming that he doesn't want to turn human, although he's been frankly fascinated watching Remus read.

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Illustmaker me

Journalistic ethics vs. critical reading

Okay, I just ran into an issue in my thinking.

I was reading a book by a journalist, which cited a source who "refused to be named" giving a quote in support of the author's position. As it happens, the book is on media spin. So my first response as a critical reader is, "How can I judge the veracity of this quote or put it in context? I don't know who she's talking to or what his position is! She really shouldn't use a quote without giving readers a chance to verify it and evaluate its importance."

And then I realized: She's a journalist. And what I'd be asking her to do is reveal a source, which is one of those cardinal rules of journalistic ethics, with which I happen to agree. After all, if you're investigating something, then it's not helpful to remove a source of information by pointing out that he is, in fact, a source of information. And that creates a blanket protection of sources. (I'm not sure whether or not that should extend to criminal trials in which a reporter is an actual witness to a crime and the defendant is the source; that's an iffy area, imho.)

So I have these two things that I feel are both important. How do I evaluate what I'm reading? How can I be sure a reporter isn't just making up a quote to support her position if she doesn't tell us where it comes from? Am I meant to just trust my gut instinct that what the source is saying is probably true--in other words, believe it if I already agree with it? Then again, how can a source be protected if he or she can't ask for anonymity, and why would I trust a reporter who broke her word to a source?

It's very irritating to me, because I feel very strongly about having all the facts and information necessary to judge a news item, but I also feel strongly about keeping helpful sources safe from retribution. My brain is having a totally internal flame war.