September 30, 2010

Dicker Crosses The Line

Journalism is a tricky business. Reporters are expected to be dogged in pursuit of a story, and to be above partisan shading. They’re expected to break news and uncover scandal and wrongdoing, and yet to be evenhanded in their treatment of their subjects. Above all, though, they’re expected not to cross certain lines.

Unfortunately, for far too many reporters these days, that line is something to be ignored, or even run over roughshod. And so it was last night with the New York Post’s State Editor, Fred Dicker.

The truth be told, we don’t enjoy writing these words. We long had a certain degree of respect for Dicker’s ability to break news stories that other journalists managed to miss. He was, at one point, a giant in his business.

But that stature has eroded, as young upstarts like Daily News reporter-turned Capital Tonight host Liz Benjamin showed themselves to be both more resourceful and more adept than Dicker. And so, in the last few years, his coverage of state politics has slipped. Grossly.

Unfortunately, so, too, has his judgment. Dicker has been trying, for days, to turn an old story—one that dates to at least April—into political hay. Other reporters long ago exhausted the issue of Carl Paladino’s fathering of a child out of wedlock. Dicker, meantime, sent out Post photographers to photograph the ten-year-old girl as she was minding her own business.

Look, nothing is as convoluted as marital relations and childbearing here in the 21st Century. And, Carl Paladino’s own family affairs are complex. But the subject of such a news story should be Carl Paladino, not a ten-year-old girl. What Dicker did was gross. It violated the special trust that the public places in journalists. And, it exposed an innocent child to ridicule and shame that shouldn’t be hers.

We write these words because last night, Carl Paladino and Michael Caputo, Paladino’s press secretary, had a heated war of words with Dicker after learning of the Post’s photographing of Paladino’s daughter. In all honesty, we respect Dicker’s right to pursue any line of inquiry he wants, and that the facts will support. But photographing innocent ten-year-olds is beyond the pale. It’s creepy. It’s stalkerish. It’s the kind of thing that, if the rest of us did it, would likely lead to, at the very least, a police investigation.

Dicker and the Post owe Paladino an apology. We doubt it will be forthcoming, but anyone watching the video below can’t reach any conclusion other than Paladino has a lot more class, and a lot more guts, than Dicker:

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