When Reporters Break the Rules

Many journalists realize they have stepped over the line only after they fall on their face

When the Gallup organization polled the public in May 1991, less than a third of Americans described journalists as having high ethical standards. If the same poll were conducted now, the results would probably be worse. Ever since NBC last month admitted to significant distortions in a report about safety problems in some General Motors trucks, the media have been awash in shame and penitence.

USA Today disciplined its Western editor and apologized in print last week for a "misleading" picture that showed armed Los Angeles youth-gang members ready to retaliate if police officers were again acquitted of beating Rodney King....

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