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University of Wisconsin–Madison
School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ethics in the News – Nov. 3

The Kansas City Royals win over the New York Mets last Tuesday not only hit off the 2015 World Series, but ignited a conversation about journalism ethics after media outlets reported the unexpected death of Edinson Volquez’s father during the game and before Volquez himself had been informed.

Confusion ensued after Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported that Volquez’s father, Daniel, had passed away at the age of 63 earlier that day as a result of heart complications and that Volquez had been informed of it on the way to the ballpark. Shortly after, however, reports trickled in refuting Rojas, saying instead that Volquez did not know of his father’s passing. A Royals’ statement later confirmed that Volquez indeed did not know and had never known at any point during the game.

Some have since condemned breaking the news without Volquez’s knowledge. Besides flooding social media, large outlets like ESPN and the Associated Press and the New York Times reported the death while it was still unclear whether the family had been informed in full. Sports on Earth writer Will Leitch reported said he felt “disgusting” about knowing before Volquez.

Others like Fox Sports chose not to report on the loss until Volquez finished pitching and they were certain Volquez had been told by family. Fox sideline reporter Ken Rosenthal defended the decision explaining that broadcast is a different medium than print or online, and the risk of Volquez hearing the news passively was more likely with the broad reach of television broadcasting.

“These decisions are balancing acts,” Society of Professional Journalists ethics committee chairman Andrew Seaman said in a release. “It comes down to, what is the importance of this information to the public? When in doubt, journalists need to remember that their subjects are human beings deserving of respect.”

In other journalism ethics news this week:

  • New York Times opinion writer Margaret Sullivan addressed an undisclosed conflict of interest in a T Magazine technology article written by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, wife of Marc Andreessen who happens to be a major investor in one of the companies featured.
  • A National Public Radio music editor resigned after it was discovered that 10 stories filed jointly on the NPR Music and WQXR websites were copied from other sources without attribution.
  • LA Weekly rekindled discussion about ethical funding of journalism in a piece analyzing Exxon’s relationship with the L.A. Times.

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