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HOWARD ROSENBERG

My Team Coverage of THE Scandal : Forget Michael Jackson. 'Journalists' reveal brushes with those who abuse their . . . ethics.

August 30, 1993|HOWARD ROSENBERG

The Michael Jackson story is continuing to arrive in dribbles as TV newscasters follow the examples of tabloids and . . .

This Just In!

Breaking News!

Hold Your Hats!

Call Everyone in Your Family to the Calendar Section!

Don't Put Down This Paper!

I'm sorry to interrupt my column, but I've just learned exclusively that allegations of journalistic ethics abuse have been made against certain TV news executives in Los Angeles.

Before I continue with my team coverage of this profoundly important fact-free story, I want to emphasize strongly that these iron-clad allegations from highly reliable sources whom I've never met nor heard of are absolutely unsubstantiated but quite possibly true while being potentially dubious.

Making their publication imperative.

What follows is shocking and graphic, and may not be suitable for anyone with a mind:

"The news executives at my station callously abused my ethics," charges a reporter who requests anonymity.

I interviewed the reporter exclusively.

Please tell me what you told your therapist about your bosses.

"They abused my ethics every day. At first it was innocent, you know, assigning an occasional ambush interview, some pandering and tampering here and there, overcooking a story now and then. But then . . . but then . . . "

Is this hard for you? Is it too painful? Would a glass of water help, a five-minute break?

"No, I want to go on, because at some point--I can't recall exactly when--I began to realize that something was terribly wrong. You see, I had always regarded my ethics as special and private, as precious and inviolate. I had been taught in school to let no one, you know, touch my ethics. But it was so harmless, so gradual. And, finally, the constant abuse took its toll. One day, I looked into the mirror and saw someone who no longer had any ethics at all. I was devastated. Without my ethics, I felt so dirty, so . . . naked. "

A second reporter told me exclusively that his own ethics had also been uncovered and fiddled with by his news director. "At first he encouraged me to blow stories out of proportion; in other words, distort what was and wasn't news. Then it became an order."

Fearing the stigma of ethics abuse, the reporter begged for anonymity.

These reporters are not alone. Another ethics-abused reporter has disclosed to me exclusively that she was ordered by her superiors to lace her stories with rumors and innuendo.

"At least, that's the way it began," she said. "It was minor, rather innocuous. That's the way they operate, you know, authority figures lulling you into a state of trust. But then it graduated to something bigger, and they started asking me to actually smear peoples' reputations based on rumors and innuendo. It was ugly, and I knew I was doing something wrong, but I went along with this filth, hoping it would stop. But it didn't stop. And now . . . now I feel so . . . violated.

"I don't understand people who act this way," she continued anonymously. "They're insidious. They could have touched my pens, my note pads, my paper clips. But why couldn't they have kept their hands off my ethics?"

*

Whew! I hope that readers are as shattered as I am by these absolutely truthful possibly erroneous charges of ethics abuse.

Meanwhile, continuing my team coverage, I have learned exclusively that the above-mentioned TV news executives are in possession of stacks of photographs and videotapes. Sources say the videotapes are near a VCR where they may have been played-- recently . Even more significant, I have learned exclusively that the subjects of these photographs and videotapes are people and, yes, people who are plainly . . . visible.

Again, I must emphasize that these appalling alleged unnatural actions--for which these news executives deserve to be tarred, feathered and fired--have not been verified.

However, the fact that I have exclusively reported them and brought them to your attention must mean that they are credible, or else why would someone with my integrity and high standards have done it?

The obviously reprehensible but innocent-until-proved-guilty news executives alluded to in this column were given an opportunity to respond to the possibly phony but undoubtedly truthful allegations made against them, but they declined. That is their right, although if they were innocent you'd think they'd want to tell me about it exclusively.

In lieu of this, I have exclusively sought opinions about this matter from patrons of a shopping mall who have no knowledge of any of the persons referred to in this column or the charges leveled against them. But all of the shoppers agree that if the charges were true, as they may be, they'd be horrendous.

In another explosive revelation, meanwhile, I have learned exclusively that on more than one occasion I have shamefully engaged in the unnatural abuse of my own journalistic ethics, the most current example of which is this column. Quite candidly, I'm devastated.

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