iMediaEthics publishes international media ethics news stories and investigations into journalism ethics lapses.


Home » Anonymous Sources»

Who would have thought that the headline to Emily Keller’s Sunday NY Daily News story, “Bye-bye, Baldwin: Fans flee after phone fury,” meant only three New Yorkers weighed in against the actor Alec Baldwin, not hundreds?

The Daily News editors must have been too busy posing for the giant photo used in the double-page, self-congratulatory Pulitzer-win spread to stop Keller’s piece from slipping through.

For background: The weekend’s news included the release of a voicemail of Baldwin screaming at his 11-year-old daughter like a raving loon on voice mail. Baldwin’s daughter, trapped between warring parents, did not answer her court-ordered phone appointment with Baldwin, thus provoking daddy to call his little girl a “pig.”

Keller’s article started out strong. “New Yorkers called Alec Baldwin irrational yesterday,” she wrote.

I immediately thought Keller must be referring to an opinion poll; however, there was no poll and no transparency about how many New Yorkers Keller actually spoke to.

There was Michael Scuderi, a Brooklyn businessman, who said, while watching his kids in the park, “It sheds a new light on [Baldwin].

“People act in movies and TV. You don’t see the real person, and then it comes out in something like that.”

OK, that’s one person Keller spoke to.

Then there was Scuderi’s “homemaker wife,” Christine, who “called Baldwin’s scream-a-thon childlike.” She told Keller, “I wasn’t a big fan of him to begin with, so I would say I’d be less of one now.”

That raises the total to two against Baldwin’s irrational actions.

However, Keller’s apparent walk-in-the-park sampling method also unearthed at least one Baldwin defender.

“He’s mad at his daughter–he lost his temper–it doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a good father,” said Dan Farrell, an engineer with a 4-year-old son.

Farrell’s support of Baldwin, according to Keller, angered his wife. Keller reports “a tiff” ensued between Farrell and wife Michelle, a certified public accountant who called Baldwin a “sicko” and said, “I wouldn’t watch anything he’s in.”

So there you have it folks. The tally is three New Yorkers against Baldwin and one in support (and possibly another divorcing couple caused by the fight Keller reportedly started between Dan and Michelle).

The way Keller writes this piece you’d think we were in freckin’ sleepy Mayberry. Hope those Pulitzer editors get back to their desks soon.

Ethics Involved

The Daily News may now list Keller’s article under “Gossip” online, but in Sunday’s paper it was Page 7 news. There is no indication that anyone attempted to call Baldwin to give him “an opportunity to respond to allegations of wrong doing,” as cited in the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics.

A close reading of the story reveals that the paper’s headline writers would have been accurate only if they published, “Bye-bye, Baldwin: Three Fans flee after phone fury.”

Sadly, a body slam to Baldwin’s reputation from The Daily News was based, so it seems, on three negative opinions gathered from four New Yorkers. The four sources were deceptively portrayed as a large group of New Yorkers, both in the article and headline.

P.S.  I called The Daily News six times for a comment from Keller and the article’s headline writer. I left detailed messages for the Sunday editor and a PR person. It was difficult to obtain Keller’s contact information, I was told, because she is “not a staff writer with a desk.”

After my sixth call, I found someone who gave me her e-mail address. I sent her the following comments and questions:

“The impression given from your news story and its headline is that a large sample of Baldwin fans in New York City were ‘fleeing’ or removing their support from Baldwin due to his actions.

“What was your method for determining that a significant number of New Yorkers reacted negatively to Baldwin’s actions? Formal or informal poll? Just talking to people?

“How many people did you actually interview?

“Was the story based on two couples’ opinions?

“Did you find the two couples in one park?”

I will report any responses I receive from Keller, her Daily News editors or a PR person

Submit a tip / Report a problem


Share this article:

Comments Terms and Conditions

  • We reserve the right to edit/delete comments which harass, libel, use coarse language and profanity.
  • We moderate comments especially when there is conflict or negativity among commenters.
  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *