Editor’s Note: The importance of integrity

By Heather Scroering

Growing up, integrity was a value that many of my mentors impressed upon me. Part of my high school’s mission is “Integrity matters,” and the phrase was printed in every classroom and often spoken during announcements. Being honest with my family was the number one rule at home, and I’ve always carried my mother’s words with me: “At the end of the day, your integrity is all you’ve got.”

Being honest is generally an important value for everyone to follow in life, but for journalists, it is vital. Journalistic integrity is the most integral of the field’s tenets. A reporter’s credibility depends on it, but perhaps more importantly, the public relies on it. Without integrity, a journalist cannot be trusted to accurately and objectively deliver the news to countless readers on a daily basis.

As journalists, we understand the gravity of making mistakes in print. However, reporters are not exempt from human error. Being wrong is a part of life, but accepting responsibility for our faults and being honest with our readers is the other side of upholding journalistic integrity.

The Chronicle’s apology for the falsified story on the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy program that ran on the front page Nov. 26 is an extension of this tradition. One person’s decision to violate the journalist’s code of ethics is the responsibility of the entire publication, and being open and honest with the Columbia community about this mistake is vitally important to The Chronicle.

There was no more appropriate place to express our honest remorse than on the front page of our publication.

We hold our reporters to a very high standard, and every one of our employees is required to sign a contract promising to follow the journalistic code of ethics. We work from sun up to sun down to ensure that our publication is of the highest quality. While this incident of fabrication could be seen as an aberration, we are taking it very seriously and re-evaluating our procedures to ensure this never happens again.

The circumstances that force a reporter to resort to fabrication or plagiarism confound me, but such acts are clearly a result of deeply flawed judgment. Journalists operate in immensely stressful environments, which can make poor choices seem like a solution when the pressure is on, as with more well-known cases like the New York Times’ Jayson Blair or The New Republic’s Stephen Glass. But it’s crucial that reporters are able to think rationally in these moments and remember their oath of integrity.

As Editor-in-Chief of this publication, I truly apologize, both to our readers and the sources in the story. I take responsibility for overlooking this incident, but I can honestly avow that The Chronicle staff and I are whole-heartedly committed to rebuilding the trust of our readers and community, no matter what it takes.