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Unfair reporting

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The Republican debate televised on CNBC on Wednesday was, according to some political analysts, the end of Rick Perry as a presidential candidate. The Governor of Texas was unable to come up with the name of the third agency he wants to get rid of. The hesitancy in his voice and his obvious feeling of nervousness greatly affected the Governor’s image. Few minutes later, however, Perry remembered that the third agency was the Energy Department.

The embarrassing moment was reported by local, national, and even international media. But some of them, like the CNN, did not mentioned that Perry ended up saying the name of the third agency. Although it was certainly a great mistake, the media should have let their audience know that, eventually, Rick Perry remembered it. Otherwise, they are reporting unfairly, since some important information is missing. In fact, not knowing something is much more serious than not remembering it at a particular moment. Avoiding to mention it may be considered paltering.

As professors Schauer and Zeckhauser point out, paltering is an intentional act in which “the speaker intends for the listener to have a misimpression.” Then, paltering includes the practice of fudging, twisting, shading, bending, stretching, slanting, exaggerating, distorting, whitewashing, and selective reporting. Not mentioning that Perry remembered the name of the third agency entails fudging and selective reporting, but is there a deliberate action in this case? If so, it should be considered paltering and, therefore, unethical and unfair reporting.

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About Ana Galán

Journalism and Film student (University of Richmond)

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