What About Ethics?

Kym Kemp / Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011 @ 11:15 p.m. /  Politics

Have you been following the news about the “prank” call to Governor Walker by the editor of the Buffalo Beast, Ian Murphy?  In the call Murphy pretends to be billionaire and conservative activist, David Koch.  Almost without exception, the liberal news sites  condemn the Governor for comments he made during the conversation.

Where’s the outrage about Murphy’s incredibly ugly tactic of lying  and trying to entrap the Governor into incriminating himself. If a police official had done this to a criminal, many in the media and beyond would have roundly condemned him or her.  But instead, headlines are trumpeting how the governor got “punked“—Murphy wasn’t asking him if he had Prince Albert in a can, he wasn’t just wasting Walker’s time, he was trying to get him to say something that could land his ass in jail.   Isn’t anyone else disgusted? Almost all the stories seem to revolve around what the Governor said or implied during the conversation. No mention of the reporter’s complete lack of ethics. Even conservative Fox News doesn’t seem that upset.

Doesn’t anyone think lying to someone in pursuit of a story is appalling? Isn’t goading someone (no matter how loathsome their actions) to try and make them say something incriminating, the kind of entrapment that we should all deplore?  This call shows Murphy again and again trying to get a politician who believes he is speaking to a supporter to say something, even a rude joke that can be used to make the case the politician is breaking an ethics code.  But Murphy slaughters the ethics code that journalists MUST follow.

In the three pages of Google search results I checked only one spoke out clearly against the behavior of Murphy.  Not coincidentally, it was The Society of Professional Journalists. They said,

Though the Buffalo Beast purports to be an alternative news site with heavily slanted views that are neither fair nor objective, the fact remains that this interview was underhanded and unethical. Credible news organizations should be cautious about how they report this already widely reported story, and must realize that the information was obtained in a grossly inappropriate manner according to longstanding tenets of journalism.

SPJ’s Code of Ethics clearly states that journalists should “be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news.”

The Code also says to avoid “undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public.”

SPJ President Hagit Limor said what happened represents “a new low” for anyone claiming to be a journalist. “This may be how Hollywood portrays reporters, but no journalist worth his salt ever would misrepresent his name and affiliation when seeking an interview. Murphy should be ashamed not only of his actions but of besmirching our profession by acting so shamelessly.”

Journalists and news organizations should take note to carefully explain how this information was obtained and take measures not to engage in similar unethical practices.

Amen.  The story shouldn’t be about Walker (there are enough true and ugly things to say about his ruthless attempt to crush unions).  The story should be about Murphy’s crossing the line between gathering information and fabricating it.


Photo of Walker and Murphy from the Daily Mail

Related tags: ian-murphy, journalism-and-ethics, politics-and-ethics, scott-walker


  • this ian murphy is so post-ironic, though, that he can be a reporter while also not being a reporter. he is above the fray. he can smirk, frown, and scrunch his chin on lawrence o’donnell’s show and offer pitiful responses to meatball questions. he’s that fucking cool. since he’s so cool, he gets a free pass.
  • I also wondered why there was no conversation about the ethics of the prank. There were also few conversations about the people who went after Acorn and edited their film to make it appear that an Acorn worker was willing to help an oddly dressed pimp hide tax money.
    I am going to spend my outrage on the harm the governor is causing. The lies he is spewing, the workers he is trying to cheat, and the real solutions he is overlooking in favor of his own political ambitions.
    Fox news reverses the numbers on the poll to show that people did not support the workers when in fact they did.
    So what is fair? What is ethical? Personally, it seems to me it is war and all is fair. Ethics are for the civil times and we as a nation are beyond that.
  • Isn’t there a saying about journalists reporting the news, not being the news?
  • The Governor is a douchebag, so it doesn’t bother me one bit.
  • I hadn’t read this post article BEFORE leaving my last comment on the Photo thread. It is a nice feeling when you are proven right and justified in what you do. Now, after more than two years of talking to you and thinking your were a reasonable person, honest and sincere, you finally reveal your true colors beyond any doubt whatsoever. That interview REVEALED Scott Walker’s attitude, corruption and true agenda. It is exactly as you revealed yours for all to see as well.
  • Isn’t it okay to lie to a liar??
  • Why A Reporter’s Prank Call To David Koch Is No Laughing Matter http://read.bi/fRBPEI - An answer to Kym Kemp: http://bit.ly/eaToah
  • Are ethics only for the other side? Do we only hold people we disagree with to a high standard?

    Oddly, I was taught that we should hold ourselves to the highest standard.
  • The Governor’s level corruption must not be as important to the person asking the question, as is discrediting efforts to expose it. For example, if he was secretly swindling YOUR savings, or dumping used motor oil in YOUR well….we wouldnt be reading a post about how the people who fooled him into getting caught lack ethics.

    You’re playing the devil’s advocate of your own reverse psychology, if that makes sense.
  • In response to Joe Blow
    >>Walker also says he considered then rejected the idea of hiring trouble makers to disrupt the rallies, which have been packed with elementary school children and highs schoolers. When fake Koch says “We’ll back you any way we can. But what we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.” Walker says: “we thought about that,” but he rejected the idea in case it back-fired, but not in the way one might think. He didn’t want to “scare the public into thinking maybe the governor as to settle to avoid all these problems.”

    >>Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said Thursday “very unsettling and troubling.” “I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members. I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers,” the chief said

    …it’s exactly like tricking people into playing the ethics game against their own team! You think it happens locally?
  • In response to Random Guy
    That is why when we have a jury system. We, human beings, are fallible when our own interests are threatened. I would be a lousy lawyer for a defendant accused of killing my child. But journalists should not be involved in entrapping someone (and neither should police officers.) If we want the world to be ethical, we have to behave ethically.

    Someone I like very much said to me, “being kind means being kind to people who annoy me.” Being ethical, means being ethical to people who aren’t.
  • Kym says, Oddly, I was taught that we should hold ourselves to the highest standard.

    I gave you that opportunity to demonstrate YOUR ethics and a standard to measure yourself against, and you failed miserably. The sickness of living and breading in a culture of corruption is manifest in your INABILITY to distinguish the difference. The arrogant self-righteousness of this comment is a thing of beauty to behold! That is why there is only ONE eventuality for this conflict.
  • In response to Random Guy
    I do think people blow off steam privately and to supporters in ways they know they shouldn’t. I’ve been guilty of making flippant comments to family members that aren’t my real feelings. Walker may have done something similar or he may be that much of a jerk. My money is on the latter. But I’ll never know.

    What I do know is the Murphy tried to trick someone into acting badly. His comment about the baseball bat for example “Bring a baseball bat. That’s what I’d do.” Encourages Walker to think and talk hostilely against the Democrats. Murphy fomented the kind of behavior that he then wants to sneer at.
  • The other side has no ethics. Walker and his aides could have called the reporter back and make sure he was talking to the right person. This reporter and wikileaks are doing what journalists should have been doing all along. Have you ever been in a crowd with planted police or agitators, it is brutal and disgusting. We need to know about these things. Listen to amy goodman and then listen to cnn for a half hour to see what ethical jounalism looks like.
  • In response to tom MORELAND
    They should have called back but that doesn’t excuse Murphy’s behavior. Wikileaks takes info that whistle-blowers leak to them. That isn’t the same as lying to someone and trying to trick them into behaving badly. I hope that Goodman would never call someone and pretend to be someone she isn’t in order to try entrap them into saying something ethically wrong.
  • In response to Kym Kemp
    Let’s say you just learned that during the planning phase of the Richardson Grove Improvement Project, Caltrans’ planners agreed they could get away with…ah, never mind.
  • Kym, No one tricked anyone into doing something BADLY. That is the point. This guy is BAD and possesses NO ethics any more than you do. Your inability to see that along with your continued efforts to justify what you actually are is an amazing thing to witness. All that guy did was give Walker the opportunity to expose himself. You could say that I’ve done the same thing with you with the same results.

    Walker spoke of his true nature just the same as you. No ethics, no credibility!
  • In response to Kym Kemp
    no she wouldn’t but neither would she as is done constantly on CNN repeat the lie that this is a budget crisis. She would not provide countless hours of walker talking his lies with out contradiction. and then have some rightwing person on to support him with more lies. I loved it that he was caught on his own petard. or is it hoisted.
  • Like always, I totally agree with you. That established news services use the word,’punk’ is enough to make you sick. It was wrong and shouldn’t be used as evidence. It was someone speaking to someone they thought they knew. That is when the truth comes out for may of us, when we’re trusting…or trying to impress, as the case may be, The guys a creep, but this should be kept underground, then come out. Not mainstream. Good work…
  • In response to jack rikess
    “Punk” was especially egregious!
  • Just looking at the topic and reader’s posts, Kym.
    Whew. Breathe in, breathe out. Serenity now, please.
    Gotta love those vexations to the spirit. And the use of all caps.
    Maybe they teach us something. Maybe it’s kinda like stepping on a star thistle.

Country Club

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