Incidents occur pretty frequently in journalism as a result of poor ethical decisions. These incidents snowball pretty quickly catapulting journalists into scandals. This usually occurs when the journalist fails to uphold the principles of journalism. There are core principles that act as the blueprint for journalism providing steps on how to remain honest, trustworthy, and loyal to the public in news reporting.
On June 8, 2007 an anchorwoman found herself in the middle of a scandal because she failed to maintain distance between her personal life and the news that she reported. Shortly after Antonio Villaraigosa (the mayor of Los Angeles, California) announced the separation from his wife after 20 years of marriage, Mirthala Salinas (the anchorwoman on the “52 Telemundo” news channel in LA) covered this story and reported the marital split. This was an ordinary story until the LA Times reported that the anchorwoman Salinas omitting key details involving herself in the split between Antonio Villaraigosa and his wife. It was reported that not only was she involved in the scandal but she was romantically involved with Villaraigosa in an affair that lasted 18 months prior to the announced split. Salinas reported this as a” ridiculous political scandal” omitting those specific details. After the LA Times released their report Salinas responded by saying “I hope that everyone can understand and respect my desire to maintain my privacy when it comes to personal relationships.” This request for understanding may have been taken into consideration if Salinas was not a journalist, but given the series of events, this is inexcusable.
As a result of this scandal, Salinas was suspended, reassigned, but later resigned, leaving her position entirely. This was most likely because of her compromised credibility and integrity while receiving negative public backlash. Kelly McBride who was the ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute made the statement “There really is no question that this is unacceptable,” she went on to express that “You can’t sleep with your sources. This one sort of transcends the boundaries in any ethical newsroom.” Kelly hit the nail right on the head.
This scandal involved a journalist whose selfish choices conflicted with the first principle of journalism; reporting the truth without bias. Her first obligation was to report the truth and maintain loyalty to the public; besides avoiding that situation entirely, Salinas should not have been the journalist to report that story. Additionally, the principles involving independence both from journalists and their sources and from the monitors of power were both dismissed. These were poor ethical decisions as this report included falsified information and purposely omitted key details, leading the public astray.
A journalist has the duty to remain independent in reporting and to avoid conflicts of interest; both perceived and real. There is a great importance in adhering to the principles of journalism. Journalists are personally responsible for providing the public with the truth when reporting in all aspects. It is the journalists’ duty to serve the public and the public deserves the truth and without personal bias. Poor ethical decisions were made and as a result there was public shame and the anchorwoman ultimately cut ties with her position. The imperative role of the journalists includes upholding the truth, loyalty to the public, and independence from related sources.
The LA Times
Society of Professional Journalists