Yesterday morning Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten asked readers an ethical question based on a true story -- should a reporter ever smoke pot with a source? The question had a few details for readers to consider. The reporter didn't smoke pot currently but had in his past, he was having trouble connecting with the source who was offering the pot and the sharing of the drug would help build up that trust. And, importantly, the Post has a policy that reporters should never do anything illegal while on the job. Believe it or not, that wasn't the most interesting journalism ethics issue I read about yesterday.
That honor goes to another issue that arose from a Boston Globe reporter attending a funeral.
Myra Kraft, the late wife of New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, died recently and there was a funeral at her temple. Reporters went to the funeral service. One of them tweeted live updates from the location. He says that he didn't tweet during the service -- only before and after -- but concedes that maybe he should have not done so from within the temple.
Jim Romenesko has excerpts from a radio show where reporter Ian Rapaport defended himself:
While I was there to pay respects to Myra Kraft, I was there as a reporter going to write a story on the funeral, on the service, which I did. So you know, what I want to do every time is bring timely newsworthy information to readers and followers and whoever else, basically in every way that’s available, and so I tweet a lot.
I didn’t tweet once [the service] began. The only thing that I’m sort of still thinking about that I think is difficult for some people to wrap their head around is I was inside the building. I was physically in the temple. …Maybe it might have been better to step outside in the reporter area, communicate the news that way and then go back in. I just didn’t want to lose my seat. So maybe that’s something if I could do it again I would consider physically where I was. I was in my seat. Would it have been better if I was in the hallway, in the doorway? I’m not sure, but those are the kind of things I’m thinking about.
What do you think? What principles should guide reporters when they attend religious services?
In my Lutheran church, tweeting or any cell phone use would be strictly verboten. We post a sign saying as much to people entering our sanctuary. But I've definitely attended services where such behavior is not only not frowned upon but encouraged. I think it's even a trend in evangelical circles right now.
The standards of each congregation will vary. But I'm not entirely sure I see a problem with live tweeting the funeral of a public person per se. How is it different than broadcasting it? Is it that it seems more intrusive?