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June 13, 2024

In case you missed it, I spent a good chunk of Wednesday’s newsletter writing about secret recordings of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts, and the journalism ethics issues involved.

The person who taped the conversations, Lauren Windsor, describes herself as a journalist. However, she did not identify herself as a journalist when she taped the justices, who were unaware that they were being recorded. In fact, she posed as someone else — a religious conservative.

In the District of Columbia, where the conversations took place, Windsor did not have to make the justices aware they were being recorded. However, most reputable news organizations would frown upon, and most likely forbid, their journalists from not revealing who they were when recording conversations they would then publish or make public.

I bring all this up again today because Windsor has released more of her conversation with Alito and did a .

Ward mostly asked Windsor about the things Alito said in their conversation, but he did ask about the recordings.

Ward first asked, “What are the logistics of these interviews? How do you get into the events, and then how do you actually get the recordings? Are you wearing a wire or something?”

Windsor said, “I’m not going to discuss methodology on any of this, but you buy a ticket. I registered, and I was a dues-paying member.” (Windsor is speaking about the Supreme Court Historical Society, which hosted the gala where the conversation took place.)

Ward also asked, “You’ve gotten some pushback for conducting these interviews undercover, without identifying yourself as a journalist. Why do you think it’s justified to take that approach?”

Windsor generally repeated what she has said from the beginning: “The Supreme Court is shrouded in secrecy, and they’ve really been dodging any accountability to the American public. They’re not going to go out and talk about what they’re doing or why, so we can’t get the answers to anything. Is it a bigger ethics problem for me to pretend like I’m a fangirl, or is it a bigger ethics problem for them to accept millions of dollars of undisclosed gifts from GOP donors? Obviously this is what I believe, but maybe the media and others — instead of pearl-clutching — should be trying to get more answers from the court and more accountability.”

For at least the third time in two days, Windsor used the term “pearl-clutching” (she also said it during an interview with NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo). And I, for the second time, will say that the conversation about the journalism ethics of what Windsor did deserves more respect than to dismiss it with the “pearl-clutching” line.

Ward also asked Windsor if she thought it was all worth it. Windsor gave a long answer, which you can read for yourself, but she did close with this: “There are many, many ways in which the Supreme Court’s decisions impact Americans’ lives, and I think the more that journalists can expose the decision-making process that goes into that, the better.”

Posting updates

Of course, we can’t go a day without more from The Washington Post.

In the maybe-it-means-something, maybe-it-doesn’t department, that embattled new publisher and CEO Will Lewis and his wife have purchased a 5,000-square foot, six-bedroom home in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., for more than $7 million.

Some have wondered if Lewis will survive at his job after all the controversies over the past few weeks. Axios didn’t report when the Lewises purchased their home. It may have happened well before all the mess. But I still think Lewis is in the job for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Lewis and his mostly new leadership team might try something called “Local +” — which Dil, after talking to sources, describes as “a new offering for readers who want to pay extra for premium local content.”

Speaking of the Post …

Former Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan has a new column out for the Guardian US:

Sullivan writes that many, including some inside the Post, think Post owner Jeff Bezos should get rid of Lewis and start over with a new CEO. Sullivan calls that idea the “cleanest, best move.” But she also acknowledges that Bezos likely won’t do that because he doesn’t have a Plan B.

So, what should Bezos do? Sullivan writes, “Several things. He should instruct Lewis to publicly commit to giving the newsroom true editorial independence, pledging not only to the staff but to the public that there is a clear line between the business side and the journalists, and that he won’t breach it again. He should reinstate the role of independent ombudsman or public editor — one that the Post maintained for many years but abandoned in 2013 — to provide transparency and accountability to readers.”

She was quick to add that she doesn’t want the job of public editor, even though she once was the public editor of The New York Times.

“And,” Sullivan writes, “though he has not commented publicly, Bezos should do so now — making clear his personal and unwavering support for accountability-oriented journalism independent from the business side of the company.”

In his latest newsletter for Puck, Dylan Byers reports Lewis has been described as “more contrite” in an internal meeting at the Post.

Remembering a journalism giant

Howard Fineman, a longtime political writer for Newsweek and TV commentator, has died. He was 75. His son said Fineman died of pancreatic cancer.

Fineman started his career in the 1970s at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, before moving on to Newsweek, where he worked for nearly 30 years. He also appeared regularly on TV, including on PBS, MSNBC and CNBC. He even appeared on shows such as “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”

, “He was part of what might be called the post-post-Watergate generation of journalists. No longer directly fired by the scrappy, crusading spirit of the young Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Mr. Fineman and his cohort brought a polished professionalism to their task matched with a dogged ambition that fit the Ronald Reagan era in Washington. It was a more collegial time, both between political parties and between them and the news media. Mr. Fineman soon gained renown as one of the fastest and most productive reporters, able to work sources for the sort of slow, steady drip of scoops that define success among Washington journalists.”

, “Mr. Fineman delivered a steady supply of cover stories for Newsweek about the major political figures of the day and the forces, seen or unseen, that sent the political winds in one direction or another.”

Risen’s recap of Fineman’s career and life is a good one, as is Langer’s story. So check them out.

Death of a legend

NBA legend Jerry West, shown here in 2017. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Legendary basketball star and executive Jerry West died on Wednesday. He was 86. Even if you’re not old enough to remember West as an all-time NBA player, you still are very familiar with him. The NBA’s official logo — a silhouette of a player dribbling a ball in a red and blue background — is presumed to be patterned after West.

, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said, “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but one of the greatest figures in the history of American sports, one of the greatest players and one of the most important people in the history of basketball in this or any country has died.”

that he once suggested that the NBA change its logo to a silhouette of Michael Jordan’s iconic “flying through the air” pose. Smith said West reached out to him.

Smith said, “He wasn’t calling to refute it. He was calling because he felt like I sounded like it’s something he would refute. And he was saying, ‘Absolutely not. I think Michael Jordan’s the greatest. I think he deserves it.’”

Here is some of the notable coverage of one of the NBA’s greatest players:

  • ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski with
  • The New York Times’ Bruce Weber with
  • The Washington Post’s Ben Golliver with
  • And here’s an from the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Kupper.
  • Oh, one more with a story I didn’t know: the Los Angeles Times’ Steve Henson with

Media tidbits

  • The Los Angeles Times’ Meg James with
  • NBC News’ Mike Hixenbaugh and Allan Smith with
  • For Nieman Lab, Mark Coddington and Seth Lewis with
  • NPR’s Meg Anderson with
  • The New York Times’ Mike Isaac writes about the popularity of games for media and technology companies in

Hot type

  • The Associated Press’ Dave Collins with

More resources for journalists

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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