He characterized the CPI’s report, written by John Solomon, as “totally damning” and “based on lurid new allegations.” Further, Gillmor opined that the article “was way below the center’s standards” and criticized the use of anonymous sources in the report.
The Center for Public Integrity’s article was published on the center’s new site, iwatchnews.org. It was based on accounts from “two people familiar with the investigation” and recounted details of the alleged incident. The sources’ anonymity is explained that they “spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.”
Gillmor commented that the sources are likely law enforcement employees and argued that the anonymously sourced claims are “almost certainly trying to solidify the public perception of Strauss-Kahn as a criminal scumbag, and do this so thoroughly that almost anyone serving on any jury will come into the trial with a predisposition to find him guilty — and that his defense lawyers, knowing that this is the case, will go with a plea bargain.”
As iMediaEthics has written, news reporting on the allegations against Strauss-Kahn have shown the differences between the French and American media standards in crime reporting. The French media has criticized American media for showing images and footage of Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs or restrained, while American media ethics advise against naming the alleged victim, which French media has done.
While Gillmor wrote that he believes the CPI “reported faithfully” what the sources said, he questioned the allegations being reported.
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The Center for Public Integrity states that its mission, and the mission of iWatchNews, its investigative news reporting site, is “to produce original investigative journalism about significant public issues to make institutional power more transparent and accountable.” The CPI’s report on Strauss-Kahn has been cited by other outlets including the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Agence France Presse.
iMediaEEthics wrote to John Solomon, who wrote the article for the CPI. Solomon was executive editor of CPI but recently moved to the Daily Beast.
Solomon responded to our request for comment, and told StinkyJournalism that the report was in the public interest. Solomon defended the use of anonymous sources in this case and added that the center’s story advanced the public account of the accusations.
Solomon’s complete statement to StinkyJournalism follows:
“The CPI story was not meant to be an anonymous story about the alleged attack, and in fact most of the details about the attack included in our story had already been in the mainstream media for days. Our story broke new ground, however, by providing a detailed account of what the Sofitel hotel did in the one hour gap between the alleged attack and when police were called. At the time it was written, the story answered significant questions that had been raised for days about the hotel’s and the maid’s conduct during that one hour. As a result of our reporting we now know that four separate hotel employees interviewed the alleged victim, that her account was generally the same and that she told colleagues she was at first reluctant to report the crime and feared she might lose her job for walking in on a hotel client. CPI’s reporting answered key questions of public interest and it came from sources who were absolutely in the know and could not speak to the media on the record.
“I’ve always held a high bar for using anonymous sources and am proud that most of the stories I’ve written over the years were wholly on the record. I also instituted as CPI’s executive editor strict rules governing the use of anonymous material. Those rules were followed with this story, including a careful vetting of the sources, their motives and their reasons for anonymity by an independent editor. “