India Uncut

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Monday, August 28, 2006

A clash of ethics

Yopu're hangin out with a bunch of immensely poor, needly people. You're in a position to help them, and dammit, you want to. But you can't, you see, because you're a journalist, and they're your sources.

Do check out a superb piece by Michael Wines, "To Fill Notebooks, and Then a Few Bellies," in the New York Times., dealing with just that dilemma. (The Human Imperative versus the Journalistic Imperative, you could say.) Sometimes, for a journalist, the right thing to do is not the right thing to do. (Link via email from Kind Friend.)

And what is unquestionably the wrong thing to do is to write about something that never happened, even if it makes the piece a lot better. I was horrified to find that David Foster Wallace had done just that in the New York Times piece I linked to so admiringly here. S Rajesh writes in:
Remember me telling you I don't remember the US Open moment Wallace talks about in the beginning of his piece? It so happens that I don't remember it coz it never happened - i researched youtube and found the rally he is talking about - check this out (rally starts around 8th minute). It's nowhere like what Wallace has described - it's Federer who is attacking and Agassi who is scrambling.
As it happens, NYT has a correction at the bottom of this page, but the mistake is baffling. Was Wallace thinking of some other point? With so much material available on the net, couldn't he -- and NYT's fact checkers -- have confirmed if the point really took place as he remembered it? Either way, it's a blemish in an otherwise exceptional piece.
amit varma, 5:59 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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