Bates better maybe, but not honest

Monday, 10 December 2007
Media Analysis:  The first thing taught in journalism schools and emphasized at Tulsa Today is to be truthful – in everything.  Make no mistake or omission of fact.  It is a media standard and the first point in the first section of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics which declares that “Deliberate distortion is never permissible.”

So, should a “contributing writer” promote public financing and development of an industry without including within the article that it is his industry – his full-time salaried income – his private profit being promoted?  Is this something a self-proclaimed conservative leader fond of berating government handouts to private profiteers himself promote?  It appears Michael D. Bates did just that with his most recent prose in the local entertainment weekly, Urban Tulsa (UT) titled, “Even Better Than the Real Thing.”   

Sarah McCauley, a new writer with Tulsa Today, has worked with the McAlester News-Capital and was the only interested reporter in this most recent UT/Bates media ethics corruption example as staff reviewed the local publication file.  (One way we advance our journalism is to learn from plentiful bad examples and question every story published everywhere.)  McCauley made the calls and developed quotes for this review, but UT editorial staff refused to talk with her.  When news sources refuse to cooperate or other media insult our writers – the publisher finishes the piece no matter how tiresome.

Never known for quality journalism or cognitive coherency, UT has been described here previously as “mostly known for come-hither escort and dating advertisements and go-yonder entertainment listings” in a story July 2006 revealing that the same Michael D. Bates is a paid political vendor of campaign services for the same politicians he so often praises in UT.  (Click here for the full story.)

In UT’s December 6-12 edition, Michael D. Bates writes in glowing terms of simulation technology businesses in Tulsa without mentioning that he is employed by one and worked for years for another.  He promotes the industry as “national critical technology” and makes a good case that “Tulsa’s economic development gurus need to support and promote [the] city’s simulation technology industry.”

Bates ends with “For both companies and individuals, there are plenty of fascinating technical challenges to solve and a lot of real money to be made in simulating reality.”

Not bad and better than most of his writing and – as Bates simulates journalism – appropriate, but what is “real money” in this industry that makes it better than other money in other industries.  Could it be because it profits Michael D. Bates?

The story is printed in the opinion/editorial section which, former employees have told Tulsa Today, UT Editor/Publisher Keith Skrzypczak does not even read.  Close to a dozen calls to UT offices did not bring illumination on this ethics issue as no editor would take a call or return a message.  Michael D. Bates did not return calls to his cell phone.  Apparently nobody at UT will answer questions (something politicians should remember when UT calls them – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander).

A few quick calls documented that Bates once worked full-time for Flight Safety Simulation Systems – the first company on his list of those hailed for government subsidies.  Bates currently works for CymSTAR which he describes in his article as “a fast-growing small business, founded in 2003, that modifies existing military aircraft simulators and maintenance training devices to meet new training needs.”

Bates does not quote anyone in his article leaving some to question how UT editors could not know of his affiliations.  Regardless, Bates continues his long vendetta against all chambers of commerce.

“These businesses bring in tens of millions of dollars in new money into the Tulsa -area economy every year. Nevertheless, the simulation industry isn’t well known to Tulsans, probably because these companies are selling to customers everywhere but here. The executives of these businesses are focused on growing their own businesses and haven’t been players in chamber of commerce politics,” Bates wrote.

Apparently Michael D. Bates doesn’t know his former employer FlightSafety International is a current member of the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce.

Since Bates and the entire Urban Tulsa gang seem to have difficulties with journalism ethics, the following is the standard of the Society of Professional Journalists and provided for their enlightenment:

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society’s principles and standards of practice.

 Seek Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should:
— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
— Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
— Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
— Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
— Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
— Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
— Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
— Never plagiarize.
— Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
— Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
— Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
— Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
— Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
— Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
— Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
— Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.

Minimize Harm
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

Journalists should:
— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
— Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
— Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
— Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
— Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
— Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
— Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
— Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

Act Independently
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Journalists should:
—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

Be Accountable
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

Journalists should:
— Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
— Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
— Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
— Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Last Updated ( Monday, 10 December 2007 )