Ted Bobrow

Won’t Someone Please Think of the Children?

By - Jun 19th, 2009 11:32 am
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Before getting apoplectic about today’s breaking story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s investigative reporter Dan Bice, I had a question or two.

My problem with the story was that Bice reported that Milwaukee Magazine editor Bruce Murphy said that what happened between Police Chief Flynn and Jessica McBride had no bearing on the story.

What gives?

Any self-respecting editor knows that a personal relationship between a writer and a subject calls the legitimacy of the story into question. And suggesting that Bruce Murphy disputed that rang untrue.

I took the liberty of contacting Murphy for clarification. I sent him an email saying that I don’t much care what two consenting adults do but it seemed to me that a reporter ought to maintain a certain distance from his or her subjects or disclose the nature of any personal relationship. So what gives?

Murphy responded that “Jessica turned in the story in mid Jan, story went to printer early April and to subscribers mid-April. The so-called “interview” at Brocach was after the magazine came out, May 1st. That’s when the affair began.

“Bice knew all this. I will indeed write about this.”

So I turned to Bice to get his side and he responds that “According to the handwritten letter from Jessica to Ed, it was also clear that she was falling in love with the chief while writing the story” … “Murphy was aware of the content of the letter, but he said he still stands by the story.”

So, I say with a sigh, I fear we will hear more about this incident and the issues it raises about the way journalism is practiced here and elsewhere.

In other words, stay tuned for the great Bice/Murphy pissing match of 2009. You may want to hide the children!

Personally I long for a simpler time when Joyce Davenport and Frank Furillo could keep their personal lives out of the newspapers!

0 thoughts on “Won’t Someone Please Think of the Children?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    What gives, indeed! That Murphy would declare that McBride’s open love letter to Flynn was simply the product of well-researched journalistic conclusions says to me that he’s just milking this for publicity. He certainly knows better, and as someone who fancies themselves a “watchdog,” don’t think for a minute that he’d be all over this if it happened to another media outlet.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The pertinent ethical question remains, at what point should a writer disclose emotional feelings about or a romantic attraction to a subject?

    As George Carlin might say, is the thought itself a problem or does one have to act on those feelings to “sin.” Of course, if Carlin said it, it’d be much funnier.

    You’d have to ask Ms. McBride when she began to feel attracted to Chief Flynn (though I’m personally not interested in going there). It’s unquestionable to me that the disclosure of the affair calls McBride’s reporting into question and I suspect we will hear more from Mr. Murphy about this.

    But there really are more important things to think about. I mean there’s health care reform, the situation in Iran, unemployment and world hunger.

    Look, a squirrel!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think the clear line is that of behavior. You can feel attraction – but if you don’t act on it, and in fact strive to be fair in your treatment of the subject you’re attracted to – but the moment you begin an affair, well, clearly you can no longer be in the removed position of a professional journalist. Depending on the content of the letter Bobrow refers to, and how aware of it Murphy was (I’m wondering why Bruce Murphy would be aware of presumably private correspondence on the part of one of his reporters), that line may have been crossed – by McBride, certainly, and by Murphy if he was aware of it. (Flynn’s situation has its own set of ethical compromises, of course.)

    And of course I’m itching to see what, if anything, McBride may have written about John Norquist during his own affair…that’s just my schadenfreude at possibly seeing right-wingers hoist on their own petards though…

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is what she said about Norquist’s affair: http://tinyurl.com/mwdbko

    Needless to say, she was shocked, but not for the reasons you might imagine… In this piece, she also predicted (in 2006) that Doyle would go down for his fundraising scandal. So take that for what it’s worth.

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