Tuesday, August 18, 2009

U2, Fletch?

Martin Fletcher could use a lesson or two in the Ethics of Journalism. Journalists are supposed to report the news, not influence it or become part of it. On April 8, Fletcher was the reporter (and the star) of a story about his efforts to help a California family track down their relatives in L'Aquila, Italy after the earthquake. On April 10, Fletcher searched for a different family's home in L'Aquila to see if it was intact. It is not a journalist's job to involve himself in news stories. Unless it is a matter of life and death, a reporter is supposed to be an impartial observer, not a participant. Now Fletcher is at it again. On Monday, he arranged for a Sarajevan woman to reunite in Zagreb with the members of U2, whom she had first met when they played in her home town over a decade ago. At one point, Fletcher asks her, "Will you meet them again tonight?" She says, "Hopefully." It's obvious that Fletcher asked the question knowing that NBC was in the process of arranging (or had already arranged) the reunion. Fletcher ends the story by saying, "But it wasn't the birthday boy who got the best present--it was Alma--with a little pull from NBC." Indeed. Fletcher and the producers clearly manipulated the story to build suspense, even though they already knew what the outcome would be. Shame on Fletcher and NBC News. This was more like an MTV reality show than a news story. It's really sad what's happened to Fletcher. He used to be a top-notch reporter when he was stationed in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Now he's reduced to doing "fan-meets-idols" type stories. Even worse, he's manipulating the story, rather than merely reporting it. And that is grossly unethical.

Of course, it's no surprise that Nightly News did yet another story featuring U2. Bono and the band have been FOB's (Friends of Brian) for many years. They are featured in Nightly News stories several times a year for no reason other than to provide high-recognition entertainment value. After all, Brian and the producers know that stories about celebrities--even stories devoid of news value--are very popular with viewers. And attracting viewers means high ratings and high ad rates. Well done, NBC.

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