Have you been reading Tom McGeveran’s The Front columns, since the DSK case broke? He is brilliant, as always, but especially on this subject.
An excerpt from today’s:
So it is that the Post can appear to hold itself to a higher reporting standard, but have the right to publish other, less strigently monitored but more salacious material without getting its hands dirty, simply by attributing it to TMZ.com or RadarOnline. An added bonus is that if the Post later finds out those reports are untrue, they get to gloat.
This is not the only way to do things, but the other way is less labor-intensive and often less commerically rewarding. For as long as I can remember, serious political reporters have been calling candidates to ask them bluntly, “Did you have an affair with …?” Sometimes it even happens at the instigation of unscrupulous opposition researchers and muckrakers. At a certain point it just becomes necessary anyway. The pacts between reporters and sources are professional ones, and while there is a loose ethical code to them, to be sure, what transpires in a conversation between a reporter and his or her sources is not what really matters until the reporting is deployed in published material. That means that reporter, however aggressive his or her reporting practice, is doing the job, and so are the editors, when the reporting is aggressive and the treatment in the finished article is fair and accurate, according to the honest judgments of everyone involved in its publication.