Thursday, October 2, 2008

What is 'gotcha' journalism, anyway?

The news media sure is taking a beating from one of the presidential campaigns, but it goes with the territory. It's interesting to us because the one having to endure hard questioning by prominent journalists (Sarah Palin) is someone trained in journalism back in the mid-1980s (her first career was as a sports reporter/anchor for an Anchorage TV station).

This week she implied "it would have been unethical" (my quotes) to do that when she was learning the craft of journalism back at the University of Idaho.

One of the Poynter Institute's go-to people on questions of ethics is Kelly McBride, who's first job out of college was in Idaho, by the way. Here is her reaction to Palin's assertion.

This term "gotcha journalism" gained footing when the media started reporting on the private lives (usually, the sexual exploits) of politicians and candidates in -- you guessed it -- the 1980s. (Miami Herald staked out Sen. Gary Hart's house and caught him fooling around after he'd denied having an affair).

I hope I've kept my politics out of this post, instead commenting on (defending or explaining) the climate politicians running for high office must face in recent decades. It's not new, and it's not legitimate to lump all hard questions (from Charlie and Katie) in with less-responsible gossipy stuff on blogs that spread rumors about candidates' private lives.