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SPJ statement on '60 Minutes' video of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis


4/12/2021


CONTACT:
Matthew T. Hall, SPJ National President, 619-987-7786, mhall@spj.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — In an effort to respond to high-level criticism and to retain trust in our vital industry, the Society of Professional Journalists ethics chair says “60 Minutes” was not obligated to show an entire two-minute interview of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, but should have provided more context.

Politifact reported last week that the DeSantis story was deceptively edited, but SPJ Ethics Committee Chair Danielle McLean said it is common practice for print, TV and radio reporters to use portions of longer quotes in a piece.

“But I do think Gov. DeSantis provided valuable context about the process the state went through that led to the decision to distribute vaccines at Publix grocery stores,” McLean said. “I think ‘60 Minutes’ should have at least summed up the on-the-record context from the governor, especially since the segment reported the selection of a vaccine distributor may have been influenced by pay-to-play. If I were an editor or producer, I would have told the reporter to keep digging to verify or disprove those claims made by Gov. DeSantis. Pay-to-play may have very well factored into the decision, but I do not believe the ‘60 Minutes’ piece proved that. More reporting and context on the government's decision-making was needed in this case.”

The report by "60 Minutes" correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi looked at how wealthy Floridians were among the first to get coronavirus vaccines in the state, to the detriment of working-class areas. That reporting was overshadowed by "60 Minutes’" coverage of DeSantis’ decision to partner with Publix to distribute vaccines in places like Palm Beach County, which has a large elderly population. Publix is the dominant supermarket chain in the state.

DeSantis' full answer during the news conference may be viewed beginning at the 32:43 mark.

The SPJ Code of Ethics says journalists should:

•Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
•Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
•Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
•Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.

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