Gawker’s John Cook: ‘I Think of Media Ethics the Same Way I Think of Plumber Ethics’

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By Richard Horgan Comments

The journalist who crowdfunded $200,000 to try and break the story of a Toronto mayor’s alleged crack use wide open is back in that Canadian city. Tonight, Gawker editor-in-chief John Cook will chat with Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus, as sponsored by the Canadian Journalism Foundation.

Ahead of the event, Cook spoke with Toronto Globe & Mail media reporter Simon Houpt about this and that. FishbowlNY got a particular kick out of Cook’s answer to the question, “What do you think of media ethics?”:

“I think of media ethics the same way I think of plumber ethics: I think that, as a human being, I’m bound by certain ethical precepts I try to live my life by, but I do not think as a profession that reporters and editors need to think of themselves as bound by an additional, secondary set of ethical restrictions – the way that, say, lawyers or doctors think of themselves as bound by an additional set of conditions.”

“I think it’s more instructive to think of reporters the way people think of tradesman and women. I think it’s a trade rather than a profession – it’s certainly starting to pay more like a trade than a profession. And I think the idea of building up a superstructure of journalism ethics is part of a process of trying to exclude the hoi polloi from the process of reporting and commenting on the news.”

The title of tonight’s event is “Gawking, Gossip and Crowdfunding: Is this the New Journalism?” Dvorkin was formerly an NPR ombudsman, so it promises to be a very lively Q&A.