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Archive for February 18th, 2013

Omaha World-Herald columnist Matthew Hansen tracked the origin of this photo, which went viral on Reddit and Gawker. The orange spot in the middle is a burning manhole. The orange spots behind it are reflections of street lamps. Hansen resolved Internet speculation about whether they were more flaming manholes or whether the picture had been faked.

Matthew Hansen is the only person in the trio of Omaha World-Herald metro columnists I didn’t work with in my two stints at the World-Herald, which ended in 2005. But I met Matt last year when he did a story on the funeral of my nephew, Brandon Buttry. I was already a fan and friend of Mike Kelly and Erin Grace, the other two columnists, and I’m quickly gaining admiration for Matt.

I was pleased to see him get some praise from New York Times media columnist David Carr today for his work on tracking the source of a viral photo (above) that showed flames shooting from an Omaha manhole (as the photo went viral, people said it showed a series of flames, but Matt debunked that). Carr’s column tells an interesting story, but Matt’s own column is better. (more…)

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Jason Plotkin's new Cover.

Jason Plotkin’s new Cover.

Journalists should go to extraordinary lengths to protect our integrity. But when a courtesy or kindness doesn’t threaten our integrity, we should say “thank you.”

Jason Plotkin, an extraordinary (Emmy-winning) visual journalist for the York Daily Record, blogged recently about a marine giving him his “Cover” (“The Army wears hats. The Marines wear Covers,” the marine explained).

Jason wrote about all the gifts he had given away over the years, or passed on to a YDR charity auction, guided by the ethical imperative to maintain independence from sources. His colleague, Buffy Andrews, called the dilemma to my attention, asking what I thought.

Here’s what I think: We should absolutely – and insistently, if necessary – politely refuse gifts of significant value that could threaten our integrity, if only by appearance. But journalists don’t have to be assholes. Our jobs too often force us to annoy – asking difficult questions, refusing pleas not to publish embarrassing information, intruding on grief and other private situations. I defend (and have practiced) all of those actions and many other unpopular things journalists need to do. But we don’t have to insult people who are being kind in ways that don’t threaten our integrity.

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