The next time a kidnapped American journalist has to persuade his captors that he's not really a government agent in disguise, he'd better hope that the people holding him haven't read today's news from Mississippi. Raw Story points us to the report in today's Sun Herald: Government officials doing advance work for the president's trip to the Gulf Coast last week fooled at least one local resident into believing they were reporters from Fox News.
Jerry Akins, whose construction site of a home Bush ended up visiting, tells the paper that two men approached him before Bush's trip, told him they worked for Fox News in Texas, and asked if they could look around as part of a "scouting mission" for a story on post-Katrina construction. Akins -- who had no idea the president was coming -- let the men look around and take pictures. Only after Bush had come and gone, Akins says, did the men tell him they were actually part of the president's team.
Akins assumes they were Secret Service agents. A spokesman for the Secret Service said agents wouldn't normally pose as reporters and suggested that maybe the men were members of the military or the White House staff.
Akins says he doesn't mind being duped; he got his picture taken with the president out of the deal. But the Poynter Institute's Aly Colon tells the Sun Herald that having government agents pose as reporters undermines the public's trust in journalism. "It creates, at the least, some confusion in the public's minds," Colon says. "The key to journalism is credibility. So what the public wants to be able to do is trust people and organizations who represent themselves as part of the journalistic community."
We might say the same about people who represent themselves as part of the federal government.