Letters for February 6, 2003

Journalistic Ethics 101

SchoolingNew Times: Upon sharing Eric Alan Barton's article "Farewell to the Fighting Pianists" (January 16) with Heather, the girl you pictured in the lower left corner, her surprise nearly surpassed mine. Why, you ask? Well, maybe someone's expert on journalistic integrity forgot to remind Mr. Barton that in order for you to print someone's statements, you should make them aware you are a reporter.

The girls that he quoted from were under the impression that the interviewer was a parent and were totally unaware that we were being interviewed. Common sense should tell you that no one would say that all the boys in her school are gay or that "no one comes to the games anyway" if they were being interviewed by a newspaper. Obviously, Mr. Barton had to compensate for his lack of reporting skills. I guess Heather and I have been taught incorrectly in our newspaper class. This article, by the way, made me wonder whether the editor took the time out of his busy schedule to read it, let alone edit it.

Putting your evident lack of professionalism aside, New Times really had no place printing the quote about Dreyfoos boys being homosexuals. I think that Mr. Barton's assumption that the school population of openly gay students is less likely to be athletic was not only ignorant and violently opinionated but false. My gay friend is far more athletic than my heterosexual self. However, because the bedroom and the soccer field are so closely related, I'll let that slide too. I don't want to be mistaken for the average Joe who writes to a newspaper every time he finds something to disagree with. The reason I'm writing is that in your particular article, what was said to disagree with was either false or opinionated. Another newspaper rule I have learned: Opinions don't belong in objective articles.

You may want to save this letter and use it to educate your aspiring New York Times journalist so he may better tread his road to fame and glory.

Kenny Zaron

Boca Raton

Editor's note:Staff Writer Eric Alan Barton reports that he did, in fact, identify himself as a journalist to the students he interviewed, as he jotted down answers in a reporter's notebook -- while standing next to a New Timesphotographer carrying a shoulder bag full of gear.

The Dreyfoos jocks weigh in:As a communications major at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, I was always taught that before you cover a story, you must be an unbiased and fair reporter. This constitutes getting both sides of the story. I understand from the two people that you "interviewed" that their words were taken totally out of context -- which is against all ethics and morals of news writers -- well... maybe not for New Times.

At Dreyfoos, I am not only a journalist but an active athlete. I and about 70 male students at lunch go out to the field to play football and soccer. Also, last year, we held a basketball tournament in our gym, and over 65 students (including myself) enrolled in more than 20 three-person basketball teams to participate. According to you, all males are gay and nonathletic, but that is obviously not the case.

You also attack the fact that we are dropping all sports budgets. However, we just constructed a new cafeteria, and we are turning our old one into a full gym with a weight room and locker rooms. This isn't a school of just "fighting pianists" (as you call them) -- rather, it is a school of diverse children who seem to have some sort of interest in sports.

When you sat down to write this article, you should have realized that you were being greatly one-sided against the reputation of Dreyfoos. Even if you didn't realize then, I hope you realize now that you had no right reporting the news if you didn't know the news.

Jonathan Poletick

via the Internet

No shortage of school spirit here:I must say that Eric Alan Barton's article was the most insulting article I have ever read. The article is slanderous! The girl Barton quotes as saying, among other things, "guys come for the odds, and when they get here, they find out they're gay anyway" did not say that. Her name was used simply because the girl who was interviewed who did say it would not give her name. In the process, the reputation of an innocent person has been horribly damaged.

As a student of Dreyfoos, I am extremely insulted by that article. We work hard, and we try to do our best. I sing for hours and hours a day, but the news is always about what's wrong with our school and never about what's going right. I have pride, probably more than most students at other high schools, and that is why I am writing this letter. See, we care about our school, and we do not like being insulted by anyone. It surprises me that there is so much bad press about our school... after all, authors and writers are artists. I would have thought that you would be supporting us. Because we are the school of the arts.

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