Journalistic Ethics (III)

The Washington Post is now falling all over itself in trying to explain the colossal blunder in its “salon” business concept, in which corporations would have paid $25,000 a pop to have drinks with Post, Obama Administration, and congressional insiders. This article tries to explain how the ethical lapse happened.

I appreciate the Post‘s willingness to contemplate its own navel on this incident, but this article and the other explanations I’ve seen simply don’t address the fundamental question — how in the world did someone in a position of authority at the Post not realize the shockingly obvious ethical problem posed by the salon concept? The problem for the Post is that all of the people whose antenna are supposed to tingle when a “pay to play” scenario is outlined apparently felt nothing and said nothing. Journalism relies entirely on the personal ethics of reporters and editors, and if the ethical sensibilities of Post editors and writers are so deadened that they did not hear alarm bells, that is a very serious situation. Perhaps the enormous criticism the “salon” concept has received will reawaken the Post‘s ability to recognize ethical problems. I hope so. The Post is a worthy institution, and it would not be good for anyone if it were crippled by scandal and hindered in its vigorous news-gathering as a result.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

I’ve been seeing previews for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and I have to admit that I am looking forward to the movie. I really enjoyed all of the Harry Potter books — they are great summer reads — and, so far at least, I think the movies have done a good job of presenting the Harry Potter saga in an entertaining way that is true to the story. The Half-Blood Prince will be a real challenge for the filmmakers because the story is so dark and distressing, and any realistic depiction of some of the events in the book could fighten the snot out of the littler Harry Potter fans.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape

Unlike some readers, I don’t mind when my favorite books are made into movies or TV series. I enjoy seeing whether the filmmaker’s vision matches my vision of the characters, the settings, and so forth. When the truly excellent TV adaptation of Lonesome Dove was aired, I initially found the appearance of Robert Duvall, as Gus McCrae, especially jarring, because I had formed a strong mental image of McCrae as looking like Wilford Brimley. Duvall was so stunningly good as McCrae, however, that the image of Wilford Brimley was quickly dislodged and forgotten. So it has been with the Harry Potter books and movies. Alan Rickman is my mental image of Severus Snape, whether I like it or not. (And I do like it, incidentally. One reason I’m looking forward to The Half-Blood Prince, by the way, is that it should give Rickman a chance to shine that he really hasn’t had so far in the series.)

To prepare for The Half-Blood Prince, I’ll be doing what I normally do when a book I like makes it to the big screen — I’ll reread it, to get reacquainted with the story, the characters, and the various nuances and subtleties that are found in full-length books but that can’t possibly all make it into the movie. I’ve located the tattered family copy of the book, and it will be a good way to spend some leisure time until the movie opens.