Antonio Doukas Ms.

McDonough- Journalism 09/22/07

Absence of Malice
Journalists have to make a decision every time they write a story; should I print this, or not? This decision has a lot of weight behind it, and several complicated questions; how will this affect the person I am writing about? Although what I am printing is accurate, is it true? And many more questions that all hang on one point, one crucial point that answers it all; the journalist's morals, and sense of ethics. Absence of Malice focuses on this central idea, and how a sense of ethics, or lack thereof, can make or break anybody. Megan Carter is the journalist responsible for the story on Michael Gallagher, which depicted him as a murderer. While this story never named him as a murderer, it implied it throughout. This ruined Michael's reputation, and slowly deteriorated his life. So, the question is, was Meg justified in printing this story? Was there malice involved? In order to answer these questions, let us examine what malice is. Malice, by definition according to Random House Unabridged Dictionary, is evil intent on the part of a person who commits a wrongful act injurious to others. In other words, it is a desire to do something wrong to someone else. With this definition, we see that Megan had no malice to start with; she was merely doing her job. The fact that she tried to get his side of the story afterwards when she found that he had been offended by the article, compounds this fact. Another thing is that she did not know the man before, and thus would have no reason to ruin his reputation. We clearly see that the first article she printed was absent of malice, but was she justified to print a story which was derived from shady sources? Did she have the right, both legally and morally, to print the accurate but untrue story? Once again, one has to remember that she didn't know Michael before, and thus merely reported what she had heard; anyone else in her position would have done the same.

What about the stories she printed after she had met Michael? The first of those two indirectly caused the suicide of Teresa Perrone, Michael's best friend. Was malice involved here? Did Megan intend to do harm to either party? Considering her being so distraught after learning news of Teresa's death, the possibility of malice on Megan's part seems quite slim. This may be true, but it in no way implies her justification in printing that article. She printed it to publicize Michael's alibi, but in the process also publicized a deep, dark secret, that inevitably led to Teresa's suicide. She may have felt that she was fully justified in making the story feeling that Teresa was over-reacting, however, this lapse in moral guidance caused a lot more trouble than she intended. Thus, although there was no malice in production of this story, there was little and weak justification of her actions. The third story she printed in the movie broke all the rules. It was the product of sketchy research which found Michael to be involved in money laundering, thus tying him into organized crime, and compounding her first article on Michael. This time malice was present, because she wrote it after getting into a squabble with Michael, and she most likely would not have written it otherwise. She had full intent of harming him, but here comes the curve-ball; she was fully justified in printing the story. Although it was partly a product of anger and fear, news that is as heavy as that demand to be reported. Very serious crimes on both the parts of Michael, and the man who was supposedly taking his bribes. From the standpoint of an outsider, crimes of this level, money laundering and accepting bribes, need to be reported, almost as if a civil duty. Even though there was intent to bring Michael down, she had every right to. Megan Carter made some right decisions, some wrong ones, and some that were gray, but whatever they were, there was a reason and intent for all of them. To broaden the scope, all journalists and reporters have that decision to make; to report the story or not to report the story. It is entirely up to the journalist or reporter's sense of ethics to guide them, and avoid them from producing a story which presents malice. It also should direct them to figure out whether they are right in writing the story, both in a moral and legal sense.