Truth Is Just Perception

Julius Caesar, His Wife, Plutarch, And Journalistic Credibility

A CNN controversy reminds us of a cardinal journalistic rule.

Last Monday, CNN’s morning anchor Chris Cuomo interviewed his brother Andrew, Governor of the State of New York, for an update on a deadly commuter train derailment (see the video below).

This televised family reunion has raised a wave of criticism that, I think, is only half-justified. However, this incident illuminates a fundamental journalistic principle.

The objective of the interview was to take stock of the crisis situation, not to reveal a hidden truth or question the interviewee’s statements. Moreover, contrary to what often happens, the bond between the journalist and the newsmaker – who bear the same name – was there for everyone to see.

Still, this interview violated a key journalistic principle. Like Caesar’s wife in the words of Plutarch, every journalist must not only be honest, they must be above suspicion. By letting Chris Cuomo interview his brother, CNN has therefore unnecessarily undermined the credibility of its newsroom.

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