People who believe reporters should be licensed and regulated have a new outrage: So-called "polemical journalist" Ian Murphy's call to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker in which he pretended to be billionaire right-wing activist David Koch.
We'll be hearing about this for months, maybe years. Was it a prank call or guerilla journalism? Does the end – important insight into an elected leader's intentions and personality – justify the means? Is there even such a thing as ethics in journalism when the public interest is at stake? Is transparency the only thing that matters? Is media accountable like politicians should be?
These are important questions. And they don't mean squat.
Because in the real world, Murphy's explosive success at simultaneously creating headlines and celebrity status means his way of doing business has value. It is going to be copied many times.
If you are a public figure or chief executive – especially one in the middle of a controversy – pay attention. Protect your access. Let unrecognized mobile calls go to voice mail. Train your people to screen inquiries and verify credentials. If someone calls you out of the blue claiming to be a 60 Minutes producer or a high-profile billionaire, think to check caller ID. Not sure? Ask to call him or her back. If they are who they say they are, they'll understand.
You don't succeed by avoiding legitimate interest in what makes you newsworthy. But don't think you're dealing with mass media on a level playing field.
. . . . . . . . . .