Journalism requires ethics: expert

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Sep 09, 2007 - Page 4

Ethical journalism is the bottom line for responsible media outlets, a prominent media academic told a forum in Taipei yesterday.

"Good quality journalism is good business," said Doreen Weisenhaus, a lawyer and director of the University of Hong Kong's Media Law Project, during the forum entitled "Responsible Media in Democracy," hosted by the Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation.

Weisenhaus, a former legal and city editor for the New York Times, cited a controversy over former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair in emphasizing the importance of credibility and reputation for news agencies.

Blair was forced to resign from the newspaper in May 2003 after he was caught plagiarizing and fabricating material he used in his stories.

Weisenhaus said she was in charge of the newspaper's internship program when Blair was a summer intern in 1998.

Blair was a rising star because of his writing talents, she said. But his unique way of working confused her.

"He never left the newsroom," Weisenhaus said.

"As a reporter, you must go out into the field, gather your information and write your stories. But he spent lots of time flattering his supervisors in the newsroom," she said.

Weisenhaus said she believed that audiences and readers have the power to shut down a news agency if it goes way over the line in its reporting.

Weisenhaus said that in November 2002 the Hong Kong weekly magazine East Week was forced to close after a massive protest and petition by Hong Kong entertainers.

The magazine had published nude pictures of actress Carina Lau (劉嘉玲) that were believed to have been taken during a kidnap ordeal in 1990.

East Week resumed publication in late 2003.

"Commercialism is not necessarily evil," she said.

"To make profits out of a newspaper, you have to invest, too. But a newspaper's profits must be established on its solid credibility," Weisenhaus said.

Chunghwa Telecom Foundation CEO Hsu Lu (徐璐), a veteran journalist and a former president of Chinese Television System (華視), told the gathering that because Taiwanese journalism and democracy are still young, it could take some time to fix their many problems.