April 2009 Ethics Dunces

Susan Roesgen

Just when I start to think that the Ethics Scoreboard is being too hard on the ethics of journalists, something comes along like the jaw-dropping broadcast of CNN reporter CNN correspondent Susan Roesgen from a tax day “tea party” in Chicago. Then I know I’ve been too lenient. Every day Roesgen remains on the air is an indictment of CNN, as she demonstrated that the core ethical values of detachment, competence, fairness and absence of bias are entirely missing from her concept of journalistic duties.

On the scene to cover a news event, the obviously angry Roesgen began by reprimanding one protester for a sign calling the president a “fascist” and arguing with another protester on the substance of his grievance, essentially serving as an advocate for the opposing point of view. (And doing so badly, reminding him that he could be eligible for $400 of tax credits under the adminstrations’ recovery plan, as if it was a citizen’s civic duty to let personal gain govern his principles.) She was contemptuous and repeatedly interrupted the protester to challenge his assumptions, finally cutting him off. Then, dismissing the entire event as not appropriate for “family viewing,” pronounced the protest “anti-CNN,” as though the news network has a stake in the government policies that were being protested. Then Roesgen signed off by stating as fact that the event had been “highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox." As she abandoned her assignment, the crowd could be heard shouting, "You're not a reporter!"

No kidding. Except that she’s supposed to be one.

I’d like to hear the network’s defense of this disgraceful performance. Or Roesgen’s. There can be none. Whether covering a peace rally, a tax protest, a Ku Klux Klan cross-burning, or demonstrations to save or overturn Roe v. Wade, a reporter must remain neutral and not let his or her personal views become part of the event. To be blunt, nobody cares what Susan Roesgen thinks. This aspect of her performance would have justified canning her from a public access TV job, much less a national network, but she compounded the offense by turning her segment into an attack on CNN’s rival network Fox and making the ridiculous, if alarming, assertion that tax protests are anti-CNN.

Did she once work for Pravda?

Journalism is in free fall as a respectable profession, with Roesgen’s YouTube clip as Exhibit A. Exhibit B will be CNN’s silence on the matter of one of its reporters taking sides in a partisan argument, and explicitly linking the network to government policies.

Exhibit C will be if Roesgen ever again appears on screen in a setting that calls for fair reporting, rather than opinion.

Could it really be that left-leaning journalists are so arrogant and dim that they think a Democratic administration relieves them of even making the effort to appear neutral and unbiased while reporting the news?




Business & Commercial
Sports & Entertainment
Government & Politics
Science & Technology
Professions & Institutions

The Ethics Scoreboard, ProEthics, Ltd., 2707 Westminster Place, Alexandria, VA 22305
Telephone: 703-548-5229    E-mail: ProEthics President

© 2007 Jack Marshall & ProEthics, Ltd     Disclaimers, Permissions & Legal Stuff    Content & Corrections Policy