Of Telethons & News and not ‘Blurring the Lines’

By Chris Ariens 

As the dollars are being added up from tonight’s “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon, a leading journalism organization is imploring reporters to not become a part of the story of the tragedy in Haiti.

While, the cause is noble and just, CNN continues to get flack for being too close to the fund-raising effort while also covering the news. Anderson Cooper was featured prominently in tonight’s two-hour broadcast — five times by our count — from the CNN perch in Port-au-Prince. At one point Dr. Sanjay Gupta joined him to discuss the dire medical situation. Both have been in-country since last Wednesday morning.

When the telethon ended at 10pmET, Cooper continued live on CNN anchoring his show, including an interview with telethon organizer, actor George Clooney.

Another of the telethon’s hosts, Haitian-born Wyclef Jean even included Cooper’s name and his network in the closing song as it aired across the broadcast spectrum on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and, in New York, on the News Corp.-owned MyNetworkTV affiliate, WWOR as well as countless cable channels.

And while MSNBC was among the channels to carry the concert, Fox News and HLN did not, sticking with regular programming instead. MSNBC pushed back the airings of Olbermann and Maddow at 10pm and 11pm, respectively.

As for the news media both covering and advocating, the Society of Professional Journalists has weighed in and is asking reporters to be cautious.

“Advocacy, self promotion, offering favors for news and interviews, injecting oneself into the story or creating news events for coverage is not objective reporting,” writes SPJ president Kevin Smith.

“News organizations must use caution to avoid blurring the lines between being a participant and being an objective observer,” Smith said.

What do you think? Our poll on the issue, first published last week, remains open…

In general, how do you feel about the intervention by anchors and reporters in Haiti?(polls)