Thursday, May 03, 2007
White House Press Who Wear 'Tony Snow' Bracelets On The Job Should Be Reprimanded
I read this morning that White House reporters took it easy on press secretary Tony Snow after he returned from an ongoing bout with cancer.
I also read that "at least two of the reporters in the audience wore yellow cancer bracelets with Tony Snow's name inscribed on them," according to Dana Milbank.
Patrick Gavin asks: Should reporters wear Snow bracelets?
The Editorialiste answers: Not on the job.
Ethics is a recurring theme in journalism (and on this blog), and reporters often have different takes on the issue.
Are we people before reporters, or are we reporters before people?
Some journalists say the cancer empathy -- or even sympathy -- is more important.
Some journalists think any sign of sway is condemnable.
So what to do? What do you think?
It should be noted that the White House press office handed out the yellow bracelets.
Does that knowledge change your answer?
In my opinion, I take the middle approach: you can wear the bracelet, but not on duty or in the office. If you sympathize or empathize with Snow, fine, but on your own time. It's an egregious error in thinking, in my view, to wear something on the job that compromises one's neutrality (and integrity, really) -- much less on camera directly in front of the man you're expressing the sentiment for!
Look, I feel for the guy. Cancer's rough. So if a reporter wants to send him a letter on his own letterhead (and not his publication's), fine. We're all human. But as journalists, we've got to have some semblance of neutrality.
We already have neutrality problems with the Correspondents' Dinner. This is even worse. And since many of the White House reporters are seasoned journalists, this is an even bigger slip for someone with extensive experience.
Why? Because they have Snow's name on them. If you'd like to wear a yellow "cancer" band from Lance Armstrong's foundation, that's fine too, as long as you aren't reporting on the foundation. But a Snow-specific band?
That's on the equivalent of wearing a t-shirt with Snow's face screened on it. Is that appropriate?
No. The size of the message doesn't matter. It's the same message.
And to have taken it from the White House press office! That's a handout directly from a PR company, the PR company of the U.S. government. No way, man.
Tell me, readers, in the comments -- what do you think (you may keep in anonymous)? Every journalist should be able to answer this question.