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Author Topic: Clark's journalistic ethics  (Read 12108 times)
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AMAZO
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« on: July 06, 2007, 03:13:26 PM »

It has always seemed to me that Clark's position as a reporter reporting on Superman is pretty dubious ethically. Most obviously he is misleading and even lying in his stories with his premise that Clark and Supes are different guys. Another issue is that his powers and position as Superman really give him an unfair advantage as a reporter. If it was unethical for super-strong, super-fast Clark to compete in football, how is Superman using telescopic and x-ray vision and super-hearing to investigate a story any different. One thing I like about post-Crisis Clark is that he is a good reporter and writer; he has won awards and sold novels. Pre-Crisis Clark we never knew much about his professional skills or lack thereof (By the way, does Clark have a college degree? what was his major/minor? Does he just have a BA or did he go for a Master's too? I would think to get a job at a prestigious paper like the Planet he'd have to have a pretty solid background in journalism, even some previous experience on at least a college paper). Any thoughts?
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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2007, 04:09:26 PM »

I'm not sure I understand how you can reconcile your concerns about Clark's ethics (which I share) with an appreciation for his post-Crisis fame and awards.  It would seem to me that accepting awards for journalistic feats achieved through superhuman means (and reported, as you say, with less than total candor) would only make him less ethical.  It's "cheating" as surely as if he used his superpowers to win at sports (which, come to think of it, is another indefensibly unethical thing he does post-Crisis).

It was always a bit bothersome to me that Clark used his abilities to beat out Lois (and countless other nameless reporters in Metropolis) to get good stories.  Now, being in a newsroom makes perfect sense for a guy who wants to know about crises quickly and respond to them (although it became less important as Superman's powers increased to the point where he could monitor everything happening on Earth while lying in a hammock at the beach), but the flip side is that Clark benefits, rather unfairly, from being on the scene of every interesting event, everywhere.  That is to say, I don't mind Superman using Clark as a way to learn about trouble, but I do mind Clark using Superman as a tool to report things no one else can. 

Just to make things even more dubious, as you suggest, Clark ends up withholding all sorts of information when he finally files his stories.  First off, he obviously doesn't mention how Superman was alerted to a danger or where he came from to get there.  Then we can assume he leaves out other details that would (1) reveal his identity, (2) give future evildoers ideas for crimes or ways to hurt him, (3) confuse readers with super-scientific explanations of super-feats, (4) cause panic or alarm about ongoing or upcoming threats.  Clark censors his own stories to the point where they're pretty bare bones, I'd imagine.  Also any quotes he attributes to Superman from "interviews" are iffy at best. Yes, he could argue it's what he WOULD have said if asked, but he's really edging over into the realm of "fabrication" by suggesting a face-to-face that never happened.

In the pre-Crisis era, this sort of thing was occasionally worrisome, but generally you could ignore it.  Superman needed his job at the Planet as a launching point for adventures, and when the adventure was over of course he had to file a story, since that's what he was sent to do at the start of the book.  But post-Crisis it become very hard to ignore the question of ethics as Clark rises to prominence and celebrity from his stories.  The only good thing to come out of that, perhaps, was making him a columnist, which would have freed up his time and made it less necessary for him to punch a time-clock and be at-the-ready whenever Perry had a job to hand out.  Because what's never worked in any era was the idea of a guy disappearing from the office for long periods and not getting fired.

I don't necessarily have a problem with Clark being recognized for his novels, though.  I look at novels as more a case of personal expression and creativity, things that come from within and aren't produced on a competitive, "I got here first" basis.  it makes sense that with his unique experiences, his sensitive soul and his compassion for humanity that Clark would be a great writer of fiction.

On the other hand, if he's writing SF novels about alien civilizations he claims to have "imagined," when actually he's just basing them on real alien cultures he actually visited, well that's still cheating.  Tongue
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AMAZO
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2007, 05:19:18 PM »

I don't neccessarily think they are reconcilable. I like the idea that Clark can be a successful writer, yet i don't like that he could benefit unfairly as a reporter. I like the idea of Clark writing novels because his skills and imagination as a writer of fiction would be one of those few areas in which a Kryptonian can compete fairly with mere humans. Let's face it though, the planet must have pretty dubious standards of journalistic ethics anyway. I mean they let Lois, who is well known to have a personal involvement with Superman, and Jimmy (Superman's pal) cover Superman stories. Even Clark is publicly a close friend of Superman. Let's also not forget those times when even Perry has joined in on Super-hoaxes to catch criminals! Could or would the Planet allow a story or editorial that was critical of Superman?
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2007, 05:30:01 PM »

What's the motivation for him to write?  Well, he has something he wants to say.  And, under the category of reporter, he could "say" almost anything.  If he just wanted to discover new stuff, he could be a scientist or detective and live in a cave.  If he just wanted to be aware of wrongs to right, he could have been a police officer, before his super-senses got juiced to the point where he could see and hear cells divide.  This is a guy who scratches Kryptonese in metal diaries with his fingernail. 

Where?  The Daily Planet, a great metropolitan newspaper, a center of the universe for worldwide communications.  And maybe he blogs on the side, when he isn't fighting off offers from intergalactic newspapers to go write for them.  (His Pulitzer caught the attention of the Alpha Centauri Gazette.)

When?  Unlike traditional authors who take awhile to get into print, a reporter can say what they want to say pretty quickly.  "Instant" gratification is important for someone who works at light speed.

How does he want to say it?  Sure, he could say it as Superman.  But then it's not sold on the strength of the ideas, but simply because Superman said it.  Perhaps Superman doesn't want to sway the course of mighty elections against presidential candidate Luthor or recommend a particular type of toothpaste (because even diving into the sun doesn't make your breath minty fresh), yet may have a thing or two to say.  Clark can say it. 

Why does he want to say it?  Perhaps he wants to leave a super-legacy.  Legionnaires a thousand years from now will read Superman's writings as Clark Kent like sacred scriptures (or ironic testiments Smiley ).  Perhaps his super-senses overload him and he needs to vent descriptive prose just to get the Cthulhu out of his system.  Maybe writing is a way for him to maintain a little emotional distance. 

Where do ethics fit?  What's the ethic of him taking a salary, when he can squeeze himself enough loot to live independently and not take a job from someone else?  Perhaps he's conscious of the fact that there's a greater good he serves by doing what he does. 
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2007, 09:48:41 AM »

This line of inquiry brings to mind the discussion of Superman's illegal vigilantism we had here awhile ago: if looked at very closely, most of Superman's and Clark's actions are illegal, if not unethical.  In terms of journalistic ethics, the reporter is not bound to report on how he got the story necessarily, but he should comment if he played an active role.  In this sense, because Clark's career and identity is predicated on one big lie (that he and Superman are physically separate beings), most of his reporting is unethical.  Sometimes it is a thin line --but only semantically.

 
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2007, 12:19:42 PM »

Can Michael Moore reasonably operate a journalist if he's the one off making the news he reports to no small degree?  Unlike Michael Moore, Clark is trying to hide his involvement with the newsmaking entity. 

Does Peter Parker lack photojournalistic ethics?  They've had lots of fun with that premise in Marvel over the years.
 

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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2007, 09:14:46 PM »


In terms of journalistic ethics, the reporter is not bound to report on how he got the story necessarily, but he should comment if he played an active role.  In this sense, because Clark's career and identity is predicated on one big lie (that he and Superman are physically separate beings), most of his reporting is unethical.  Sometimes it is a thin line --but only semantically.


A good point.  Here's something, though:  What if we take the late 70s/early 80s approach that Kal-El conceives of Clark Kent and Superman as two separate people.  Something along the lines of Clark being a "construct" on Superman's part.  Superman has a Super-Brain and has created this elaborate personality named Clark Kent, which has taken on a life of his own.  Superman loves Clark, much the way a parent would love a child.  Superman gives Clark room in which to be his own entity and to have his own career.

So Clark may not have had a big role in the story - but Superman did.  Clark makes certain that everything the public would have known were it present is reported and violates no confidences in the process.  I think that qualifies as ethical.
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« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2007, 10:23:30 PM »

Yes, in essence he fools himself into thinking he's acting ethically because of this pseudo-schizoid situation.  A variation of a semantic word game, played with personalities.  Possibly even legally defensible.

I would love to read a story where Clark becomes aware of information using his superpowers (ie, vision, hearing) and is challenged to reveal his sources in court but cannot do so without revealing his identity.  And so to jail.  Even if it was resolved using Superman robots, super-ventriloquism, or something equally lame, still an interesting exploration of that aspect of the mythos.



 
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