Reuters blogger Felix Salmon writes Monday that Wall Street Journal reporter Dennis Berman‘s ethics were questionable when he posed as his dead grandmother to report a story about a market for shares of private companies.
Salmon writes, ” Is what Berman did unethical? Yes — if you’re going to lie in the service of reporting a story, you need to be able to get information that way which you couldn’t get through normal reporting channels. It’s no great secret or revelation that people can put whatever information they like into a web form, and then start lurking in SharesPost forums, calculating bid-offer spreads and reading investors’ whines about not being able to buy into Groupon.
“If Berman’s late grandmother had actually been allowed to buy shares, that would have been a serious security breach. But she wasn’t. So the ends don’t remotely justify the means here.
“And this wasn’t some kind of deep investigation on the part of Berman: rather, it was a cheap stunt, designed to confirm Berman’s pre-existing prejudices. Something which can be justified in the former case can still be a very bad idea in the latter.
“To make matters worse still, Berman isn’t some kind of overenthusiastic kid reporter who stepped a bit too far. He’s the deputy bureau chief for Money & Investing, helping to shape large chunks of the WSJ’s finance coverage. What he does is a clear signal to everybody who works for him about what is and isn’t acceptable in WSJ reporting. Unless, of course, he makes it clear that he has lower standards for his own work than he does for the work which he edits.”
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