Sunday, July 17, 2011
"That divorce is a prominent source of emotional anguish and suffering for children is obvious..." That's the opening of Rowland W. Folensbee Jr. and Florence F. Eddins-Folensbee's book review written six years ago for and published in The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
It's also a sentence published in the July 10 Charlotte Sun tab, "Feeling Fit." The news feature writer, Barbara Pierce, did not credit or acknowledge the Folensbees or their academic journal.
What the writer did was enclose that sentence in quotation marks and stuff it into the mouth of divorce researcher Judith S. Wallerstein. (Scroll down to see July 10 post.) The Charlotte Sun's feature writer also attributed another quote to Wallerstein, but that one hasn't yet been located in any of Wallerstein's works.
Pierce's motive may have been to give the story a dose of credibility that she, as a reporter, may have felt unable to deliver -- a local feature that would stand on its own merit. Let's use the Socratic method to see how well that worked.
Three questions are on the board for SCMG's ethics refresher workshop: (1) Should readers be told they've been handed a newspaper story which includes both stolen and apparently fabricated quotes that the writer inserted into the mouth of a person who wasn't interviewed? (2) Should the record be corrected to say one of the quotes comes from a publication that wasn't credited as the source? (3) Should the famous person who was not interviewed receive an apology for being made to appear to be in places where she wasn't, speaking to people she didn't speak to and saying things that she did not say?
Until "Feeling Fit" came along, Old Word Wolf would have considered these to be purely rhetorical questions -- ones in which the answer is universally understood.
Neither tab editor Karin Lillis, tab publisher David Powell, SCMG president David Dunn-Rankin nor writer Barbara Pierce has taken out space to set the record straight so the questions remain open for discussion. Do I see a hand in the back of the room?