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Ambassador Stevens’ diary conjures up the issue of ethics in journalism

by AirTalk®

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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: A portrait of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens is placed along with a condolence book outside the room of Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the U.S. Capitol September 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. Alex Wong/Getty Images

CNN is standing by its decision to report on the diary of Ambassador Chris Stevens, despite objections from the Stevens family. The ambassador died in the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, and CNN allegedly found the diary on the floor of the compound where Stevens was wounded.

CNN reported that Stevens was increasingly worried about a terrorist attack in Benghazi, and made reference to being included on an “al Qaeda hit list.” The U.S. State Department was up in arms over CNN’s reporting of the journal after telling Stevens’ family it would not be used, with spokesman Philippe Reines going so far as to call the move “indefensible.” Did CNN go too far?

What are the ethics of journalism in delicate cases such as this? Should all relevant news to a story be reported, even if promises were made to significant parties involved? How would you feel if this had happened to your family?


Erik Wemple, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post

Ms. Kelly McBride, Senior Faculty for Ethics, The Poynter Institute, which specializes in journalism

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