To name or not to name


Confession: I don't always read or look at every section of the paper in the morning. Or in the afternoon. I just now noticed Tim Rutten's column in yesterday's LAT Calendar on naming Michael Jackson's accuser. Basically, Rutten sees the Internet overriding mainstream news ethics, and points to the Daily Telegraph of London revealing details about the Jackson case, including the accuser's name.

So, given the internationalization of such stories and the speed by which they can be cybernetically laundered into the media mix, do the mainstream news organizations' laboriously worked-out ethical norms really avail any longer? Do they still serve some purpose, or has technological change simply overrun them, degrading practices, like withholding the boy's name, from ethics to eccentricities?

"It's certainly true that the old system of media discretion, based on the judgments of elite gatekeepers, like newspaper editors, is breaking down," said Orville Schell, dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. "The Internet has amplified the mass in mass media and made it much more populist. We no longer have as many obvious gateways of decorum through which public enters the world of news. To my mind, our newfound pluralism has opened too many doors. It is a kind of a pity that so much of our coverage has become this shameless."

Schell goes on to cast stones at the Drudge Report.

"Unfortunately, people like Drudge have a place these days. He's like a synapse firing into a vast nervous system with no major or minor pathways, just a welter of energy pumping in every direction. If Drudge hadn't linked to the Daily Telegraph's story, it would have gotten out in the U.S. some other way. He's just an iconic roundhouse for the dissemination of the scurrilous."

The reason I dug out yesterday's Calendar is that a correspondent emailed about the contrast between Kevin Thomas' review of The Cooler on page 12 and the blurb attributed to him in the film's ad covering page 10. In the ad, Thomas is quoted exclaiming:

"Sophisticated, intimate, sleek and engaging! A classic romantic fable...'The Cooler' is make-believe of the most enticing kind."

His review does use the phrases "romantic fable" and "make-believe" but in different ways. None of the other key words appear. Just what is the ad quoting?

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