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Star Investigation

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Format: Internet Journalism and the Starr Investigation



Re: March 31, 2005

The Starr Investigation was an important time in journalism, because it forced the traditional media to overhaul their ways of presenting news online in order to meet the needs and demands of Internet users. New technology was used in this case to break the news of the scandal, to voice new allegations, and to release in its entirety Starr's final report of the investigation. This case provided the first detailed look at the differences in character between the Internet and traditional broadcast and print media.

The ethical issues in Internet Journalism and the Starr Investigation:

1. Was this a legitimate news story?

2. Intense journalistic competition? "Journalists of all stripes were chasing the story."

3. CREDIBILITY of the paper? Reporting Facts that in the end proved false.

Editors doubtful of the story's accuracy? The reliability of the information?

4. The Value of Verification to get the story right?

5. Anonymous Sourcing/ Unidentified Sources - "Journalists scrambled to confirm the allegations, but often ended up running them with only anonymous sourcing."

6. Speed, sensation and conjecture over accuracy? CNN's Scott Woelfel says he sensed in the early going that, "there was an attitude of, 'I don't know if we could put this in the paper, but we could put it on the Web site'."

7.News Leakage? Certain sources in the independent counsel's office were using the press, selectively leaking information to gain tactical advantage with reluctant witnesses like Lewinsky. McManus recalls. "So there was clearly a lot of leakage."

8. The breaking of the story. Matt Drudge breaking the story through his online newsletter? - Wire services sent the story worldwide. Cable networks, radio shows, and local television newscasts led with the report. Larry King interrupted his program to read the story live.

9. The story was so explosive that Bill Clinton's attorney called Nightline and DENIED the story on the air.

10. SHAKY SOURCING? Reports were based around shaky sourcing.

- The Dallas Morning News and the Wall Street Journal reported that the president and the intern had been seen together in a compromising situation.

- Starr's staff member called the source to take back the claim because it was FALSE.

- Langer told the employees that the News had unwittingly relied on only one source to publish its original story.

11. Timing and public interest

12. Violating the paper's two-source standard.

13. Miscommunication - Senior editors mistakenly believed that a second source existed because of a "miscommunication" between Dallas and the Washington bureau.



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