Live

Watch CBSN Live

Leak-A-Rama Meets Poll-A-Rama

We now have in Washington, added to the leak-a-rama of the Clinton-Lewinsky mess, poll-a-rama. Around the clock, constant leaks and counterleaks and constant polling.

And with the polls, it isn't just in Washington. Now it seems every news organization in the country is consumed with polls. The weekly Huntsville,Texas, Item, for which I once worked seems to be an exception.

Television, radio, newspapers and magazines all seemed to be poll-crazy. They seem to be because they are. Let's face it: Taking a spoon-fed leak from some political operator in the special prosecutor's office or the White House and reporting it without checking it out is easier, cheaper and quicker than
doing what journalists are supposed to do, which is check things out. Make telephone calls, knock on doors, wear out shoe leather, question, investigateb on your own, cross-check, be skeptical and work especially hard to separate brass tacks from bull feathers. Pull no punches, play no favorites.

When that kind of journalism is swept aside, partisan political leakers have a field day. So does polling. But polling is in a somewhat different category.

Polling can be a useful tool for integrity-filled reporting. But to be that, polls must be used sparingly and thoughtfully. And the polls themselves must be done as professionally and scientifically as possible.

In the poll-a-rama mixed with leak-a-rama climate of the present storm, you don't hear much such talk around newsrooms. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved