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October 22, 1981

“An unlikely team formed at Vassar College,” Brooke J. Kamin ’84 wrote in The Miscellany News, when Professor Penn Kimball from the Columbia School of Journalism, Martin Arnold, veteran New York Times reporter and assistant editor of the New York Times Magazine and former New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly participated in a panel discussion on “Issues of Integrity in News Reporting.” The discussion was moderated by Richard Wager, the publisher of The Poughkeepsie Journal. “A middle-aged journalism professor and a 30-year-old street-wise columnist,” Kamin went on, “paired off again another associate—the assistant editor of a magazine.” Kimball and Daly took the position that the journalistic rigor and energy of even The New York Times—facing circulation and financial declines—had lessened, as the paper sought a more suburban, affluent and disengaged readership. To this, Arnold replied, “There is no such thing as a little loss of integrity. It’s like being a little pregnant—impossible.” The discussion’s “main subject,” Kamin concluded, “was a newspaper’s economic viability versus its editorial position.”

The panel’s topic was timely and the discussants apt. In April, just after receiving the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for an article in The Washington Post, reporter Janet Cooke had resigned after admitting that “Jimmy’s World” and the eight-year old heroin addict featured in it were, along with the Vassar degree on her résumé, fabrications. Michael Daly had resigned from The Daily News earlier in the year after admitting that the narrator and much of the quoted material in a story he had reported from Northern Ireland were also fabrications. Penn Kimball was at work on a book, The File (1983), detailing his discovery and intense investigation of a government file of rumors and insinuations about his political affiliations that had been accumulating secretly since he’d left college.

The Years