A Coke and a Journalistic Quandary

A reader pointed the Pulp to a Wall Street Journal story this morning on the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac takeover. Here's a passage from the leading financial newspaper's story on the background of one of the most significant bailouts in American history:

The decision was hashed out over weeks of meetings. They included a conclave of Federal Reserve officials during their annual retreat at Jackson Hole, Wyo.; a mid-August polling of bond-market players by Morgan Stanley bankers advising Treasury; and a marathon session over the Labor Day weekend, fueled in part by Diet Coke and Coke Zero.

Dozens of bankers and lawyers were involved in the process. One junior banker joked that the round-the-clock schedule was tougher than prison -- at least there, you got three square meals a day.

Yes, all those ultra-wealthy bankers and lawyers found out what it's like to be in prison -- only it was worse! Ah, but that's not what really catches the eye. It's the product placement of Coca-Cola products in the story, as in the reporting that early negotiations were "fueled in part by Diet Coke and Coke Zero." I'm sure there was coffee involved, so they could have said fueled by coffee and soda, or something of that nature, instead of the gratuitous mention of the soft drink giant. Somebody check those reporters' stock holdings, pronto.

Also this morning, someone at the Miami Herald reminded the Pulp of some of the awful decisions that need to be made in newsrooms.

An anonymous source tells the Pulp that there was some controversy in the newsroom last night about running an emotion-evoking Hurricane Ike photo (shot by Herald photog Patrick Farrell) from Haiti. Here's what the insider wrote:

Tonight there was a big discussion about the photo that they ran on 1A, not because of the fact that there was a dead child in the photo, but because in the background there was a naked dead girl whose crotch was visible. After much discussion, the Herald decided to run the photo anyway.

The paper did crop the legs of the other girl's body out of the photo. The potentially offending aspect of the photo (though it's really just heart-wrenching) is still there but it's almost impossible for the casual viewer to recognize. The unedited version of photo is up on the Herald's website. Overall, it seems a decent and responsible compromise after a disturbing, but necessary, journalistic debate.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman