The Spectacle Blog

Slate finds other problems with illegal immigrant story

By on 6.23.11 | 12:43PM

You may wonder about the veracity of reporter's truth-telling when he has to shield his own identity. Jack Shafer certainly does:

But the fact that Vargas lied about his noncompliance with what I (and others) consider to be an unjust law cannot be waved off. The trouble with habitual liars, and Vargas confesses to having told lie after lie to protect himself from deportation, is that they tend to get too good at it. Lying becomes reflex. And a confessed liar is not somebody you want working on your newspaper.

Oh, I expect to be denounced as a prig for that last paragraph. Like you've never told a lie? Never fudged your taxes? Never constructed a drunken alibi? Told a whopper? Stolen a candy bar? Of course I have. But have I lied systemically to my journalistic bosses? Nope. I don't come by my honesty policy because I'm virtuous by nature. I'm not. I'm honest because I know that if you violate your editor's trust, you're a goner for good reason. (Also, I'm a terrible liar who can't keep his lies straight.)

As a PR strategy, I'm not so sure about whether you can launch a movement by relying a person whose credibility is staked on... being non-credible to the people he needed to trust most.

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