1,000 Words: Journalists lose their ethical way

The next time you read or hear a story on the state of the news media, think of this picture. It’s a far, far more accurate accounting of it than any research could reveal.

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Journalists, reportedly at the landlord’s invitation, invaded the townhome of the couple who murdered 14 people in San Bernardino.

Squeezing into the home, and on live TV, the reporters and photographers pored over everything.

Consider what this picture above doesn’t show: A photographer taking a picture of a photographer taking a picture of a picture. Next to the toilet.

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

“I am squeezing my brain as hard as I can, and, at the moment, I cannot think of anything like it that I’ve seen — even by the debased standards of cable TV,” Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik writes today. “This is just what I expect of MSNBC, the poster channel for a TV news industry that has lost its journalistic and ethical way.”

“MSNBC and other news organizations were invited into the home by the landlord after law enforcement officials had finished examining the site and returned control to the landlord,” MSNBC said in a statement to the Washington Post. “Although MSNBC was not the first crew to enter the home, we did have the first live shots from inside. We regret that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review.”

Doyle Miller, the landlord, told the Post that he intended to allow just one TV news crew inside and the others “just stormed in.”

“I am sure that the public is looking at journalists going through anybody’s home — even a couple that is now universally despised as this — as a tawdry act. And I think that’s unfortunate,” media ethicist Kelly McBride told the paper. “There’s this image of journalists as lurking around trying to pick up any piece of dirt they can on anybody. This certainly reinforces that.”

[this post has been updated]