Here’s what Schmalfeldt actually wrote to the woman.Schmalfeldt maintains that he was behaving in an ethical manner as a journalist when he sent that message. The Cabin Boy also touts the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. Let’s examine how the tactic he used with this potential source fits within that Code. This item seem applicable.
— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
As near as I can tell, nothing in the story he was “investigating” had anything to do with the woman’s children or whether or not they should be taken from her. It seems that he was simply using the threat as a bludgeon to get her to “play smart” and give him the information he wanted. It’s unclear that she was even a direct part of the story. IANAL, but that message seems very close to blackmail or extortion, and since it was sent via interstate communications, a violation of federal law.
And what compassion was he showing the children who would have been affected by his threats?
But the Cabin Boy says he’s ethical … because JOURNALIST!
UPDATE—Stacy McCain appears to question Schmalfeldt’s journalistic ethics also.