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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Clarence Page, Tribune Columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner, speaks about ethics in journalism

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page spoke to an audience that almost filled up 1100 Grainger Hall Thursday night. Page concentrated most of his lecture on ethics in the media, but he digressed in the beginning to explain his work as columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

“A column is to explain things, a place for people to have an opinion to bounce their opinion off of,” Page said. “That’s about all you can do in 700 words.”

He initiated the ethics part of his lecture with the names of recent irresponsible figures like Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass and embedded reporters.


“Media ethics has real meaning,” Page said. “We provide a service, we try to bring the world for you and a public forum for discussion.”

He indicated the exclusiveness of the freedom of the American media.

“How many other countries have the first amendment? None of them.”

Page related experiences he had when he worked in different countries, where free speech is not as much of a priority as it is in America.

This is where, according to Page, where Jayson Blair got it wrong.

“The joy of this business was overlooked by Jason Blair,” Page related. “The joy of this business is getting to go to new places and meet new people and tell their story.”

After a story that Blair wrote about war hostage Jessica Lynch’s father was brought to the family’s attention, the elder Lynch said he knew that Blair never interviewed him. Lynch said he thought newspaper people made stuff up all the time.

When that anecdote garnered a chuckle from the eclectic audience, Page reminded the audience media illiteracy is not a funny situation.

“It hurts to make a correction,” Page said.

All these misuses of media are now “harder and harder to get away with” according to Page.

“Journalists don’t have to worry about perp-walking,” Page said, invoking the images of criminals being led off by officials, but he said that journalists must worry about credibility above everything.

“Without credibility, we are nothing,” Page said, and added a story that his father once related to him. “Doctors get to bury their mistakes, journalists have to live with them.”

Page drew his lecture to a close with a question-and-answer session and some final thoughts about public discourse.

“I’ve found that Midwest people hold the belief that if we don’t discuss religion and politics, we’ll get along just fine … But it’s my job. We need more dialogue about the great diversity of this country, not less,” Page said.

Juniors Jessica Arp and Stefanie Lade, both journalism students at the University of Wisconsin, admitted they had to cover the event for a journalism class.

“I would’ve come anyway,” Lade said.

“[The assignment] was just an extra incentive to come,” Arp said. “He had a lot of things to say.”

Arp went on to say that she could sense a lot of truth in what Page was saying because of his experience in the field.

“If you listen to him the right way, he can be a great teacher,” Lade said.

Page’s lecture, “Media Ethics is not a Contradiction,” was brought to UW as part of the journalism school’s Ralph O. Nafziger Lecture series.

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