Questioning the journalistic ethics of Amber Lyon (CNN)

I found myself wide awake at 4:00 am or so last night with no remote in sight and the channel stuck on CNN. Amber Lyon was running a story about Craig’s List and its change from “Adult” to “Censored.” The whole thing ran like a more polished version of James O’Keefe’s “Acorn pimp” video. At about minute 5:00 after the “investigative” part of the story ran, Amber Lyon wrapped it all up and said “don’t question my ethics as a journalist.” The story as it ran on CNN is below.

My canine sense started tingling a bit after hearing this story a few times and watching Ms. Lyon assert her journalistic ethics, so we thought we might just ask a few questions:

– Why did Ms. Lyon inject herself into the story by placing an ad of questionable content on Craig’s List? There were thousands of ads she could have reported on without making a new one. She could have called several hundred and interviewed the person placing the ad, even if the questions were as simple as “how many people responded to your ad?” Out of a hundred ads, 10 or so would probably have gladly answered her questions.

– Why did law enforcement not take action against Ms. Lyon after she clearly admitted to placing an ad of the type she expected law enforcement to take action against?

– Why did Ms. Lyon not interview all law enforcement departments in all areas that Craig’s List ads ran to see if CL notified them of any postings? Interviewing one out-of-context investigator hardly establishes credibility. (Yes, we will be calling the Englewood Police department on Tuesday to see if anyone from CL has reported a postings. We want to be thorough.)

– She said she didn’t ambush Newmark and that she wanted to talk about his speech (6:08) and did no such thing once the cameras were rolling outside. Well, perhaps she led the interview with questions about the speech he just gave, but that is not the part that aired. The part that aired — and Ms. Lyon knew it would — was the part where she waved a printout of the ad in front of him and asked him to explain it, unread and unverified. That is an ambush.

These are just a couple of questions off the top that we think Ms. Lyon should be answering. As the viewing public, we should be questioning the journalistic ethics of reporters all the time, with every story, with every statement.

Just as we intuitively know politicians are lying the minute they say they are not, so too we feel journalists are being unethical the minute they claim to be ethical.

Am I being unfair to Ms. Lyon? Thoughts? (Please, no general statements about the MSM. Generalizations are also almost never credible as well.)


2 Replies to “Questioning the journalistic ethics of Amber Lyon (CNN)”

  1. Wow, comparing this woman to O’Keefe is pretty crazy. This reporter identified herself accurately and told the guy she wanted to interview him on the subject of the speech he just gave. I agree that the ad gimmick was kind of lazy, but not at all unethical. It was your usual investigative sting. When she was saying not to question her ethics I think she was responding to “Craig’s” on line tirade not warning the audience. At the very least Craig’s List was being dishonest about a pretty awful practice. Oh, by the way, police don’t investigate journalists who bring stings to their attention unless the journalists have broken the law.

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