Teaching Notes

You must become the flame on the candle. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Truth & Lies

Would Joe Saltzman approve of the reporting in the situation described in the link below? Why or why not (draw on the assigned chapter for your answer)?

Your response is due Tuesday, Feb. 21, by 4 p.m. No exceptions.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/01/panorama-care-home-investigation-undercover-journalism

27 comments:

Kaitlyn Vella said...

I feel that Joe Saltzman would approve of this reporting situation. Undercover reporter Joe Casey was doing something similar to what Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) did in the 1890s. She wanted to expose NYC Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum, so she posed as an insane woman. Casey wanted to expose Winterbourne View (a private hospital) for he felt they were mistreating patients so he took a five-week job as a support worker. What they caught proved to everyone that this hospital was not doing what it was supposed to.

I feel that Saltzman would approve of what Casey did. In the chapter he says, “some of the best investigative reporters in the history of journalism went undercover for the best reasons—to inform the public of wrong doing by business or government.” That is exactly what Joe Casey was doing. The people in the private hospital were abusing their patients and Casey took it upon himself to inform the public of what was going on.

Another thing Saltzman says in the chapter is “on the one hand undercover reporting amounts to unethical behavior—deceiving people who think they can talk freely to you because you were not a reporter who will tattle on them. On the other, there are stories important to the public welfare that cannot be reported any other way.” I guess one could argue that what Casey did was unethical because he was masquerading himself as a support worker, but I would argue that what the hospital was doing was even more unethical. Plus Casey had tried to expose them as a reporter, and his efforts failed. This seemed to be the only way to get the truth out about Winterbourne View.

Lastly, I think Saltzman would agree and approve of Casey’s behavior based on the SPJ guidelines for deception outlined in the chapter. The first guideline states that deception is okay “when the info obtained is of profound importance. It must be vital to public interest such as revealing a great ‘system failure’ at the top level or it must prevent profound harm to individuals.” By doing what Casey did he helped prevent further harm to patients at this hospital. If he didn’t deceive the hospital, this could have continued forever. The second guideline states that it is okay to use deception “when the harm prevented by the information revealed through deception outweighs any harm caused by the act of deception.” In the end, Casey was preventing harm to future patients. Sure he was deceiving the hospital, but he was helping protect others. I think that the information reviled greatly outweighs the harm caused by the deception. What Casey did was important, and he didn’t even start of using deception. He tried to reveal this other ways! Deception seemed the only way to put an end to this problem and expose this private hospital.

Cliff Maroney said...

While the idea of undercover reporting is quite a moral dilemma, since it involves uncovering unethical practices by way of (borderline) unethical practices on the part of the journalist (for example, masquerading as someone else), I think Joe Saltzman would approve of Joe Casey's reporting in this instance. As Saltzman writes, "it seems permissible in movies to 'lie, cheat, distort, bribe, betray, or violate any ethical code as long as the journalist exposes corruption, solves a murder catches a thief or saves the innocent'", and since Casey's reporting of the injustices at Winterbourne View, fit into this definition of permissible I feel as if Saltzman would approve. Granted, Saltzman applies this statement to a film context, but since the moviegoers are based in reality feel the practices displayed on the big screen are permissible, I feel as if they are generally permissible in reality as well.

Furthermore, as it is stated in the article, concerned parties and internal stakeholders at Winterbourne View complained about the abusive conditions well in advance of Joe Casey's undercover expedition. For example, Terry Bryan, the nurse and whistleblower who turned to the Panaorama as a last resort, reached out to higher management about incidents to which he was answered with silence. Thus, since unethical and immoral doings were initially confronted morally (with such complaints about the conditions), and fell upon deaf ears, maybe deceptive practices were the only avenue left to uncover the injustices at Winterbourne.

Nonetheless, as stated above, undercover journalism is somewhat of a slippery slope because it does reveal issues with a hand that stretches from deception. However, this practice does bare a few interesting questions. Although journalism should be based in truth, and in a perfect world would uncover it in an upstanding way, is there really anything unethical about uncovering the unethical, (as long as it serves the public interest)? Or is it more ethical to go about being ethical, even if it lets the unethical continue to go about being unethical as result? I think the former.

DOlivo1989 said...

I think Saltzman would approve of Casey's story because he was revealing the abusive incident at the hospital to get the truth. At the same time however, I can see how this could be unethical because of deception. From my understanding, deception is a key element that journalists use to disguise themselves as strangers just to get the whole meat of the story. In Bennett's situation, she tried to do an undercover story on Deeds. What the reporter failed to realize was that, while deceiving, she was invading privacy and breaking trust with the man she was acquainted with. From reading the chapter, I came to understand that lying to get the truth is very difficult, because what does not hurt the under-covered journalist, could hurt someone else (vise versa).

As far as Casey's story, I think he was trying to do what he felt was the right thing to do. He wanted to show the public that this hospital was dangerous. I'm not sure if I can elaborate more on this, but this is just my intake.

Danielle Mattina said...

In the reading, Joe Saltzman talks about how some of the greatest journalism has come from investigators going undercover to report the bad going on in certain situations. He specifically talks about how this is shown in movies. He says that it is permissible for journalists to lie, cheat etc. It is said that the role of the journalist is to find the truth and report it, and that is what Joe Casey did. Casey found the truth (maybe in somewhat of an unethical way) and reported it. As Cliff stated, is it really unethical to find out and report about unethical things going on? I personally don't think that what Casey did was unethical.

Therefore, i think that Joe Saltzman would approve of what Casey did. Casey is a tv reporter who took a 5 week job as a support worker at Winterbourne View. He did this because he thought the hospital was harming their patients and he wanted to get to the bottom of it. It turned out that Casey was right, and Casey informed the public of the truth. I think that Saltzman would agree that this was good journalism.

Although what Casey did may seem unethical to people, I feel as if it was the right thing to do. If something as bad as mistreating patients in a hospital is going on, something has to be done about it. The article discusses how previous inspections had been made and nothing had been done of it. It states how an 18 year old patient had told her parents that she had been hit and they did not believe her. Also, Terry Bryan, a nurse at Winterbourne View, had made 3 separate complaints to his workers and was also ignored. The article states, "But what this Panorama shows is that undercover reporting needs to be deployed when nothing else can be substituted, and when the public interest in exposing wrongdoing is paramount." Therefore, what else is there to do than what Casey did?

Kasara.Brandman said...

I think Stalzman would approve of that reporter Joe Casey did. Casey wanted to expose the hospital for what it was doing wrong, in hopes of helping the patients who desperately needed attention and care. Although the act of undercover reporting is ethically questionable, I feel that if your motives behind the undercover reporting are to help the greater good, than the practice is ethical. Casey tried to expose the hospital as a real reporter before going undercover, but the hospital would not cooperate. Casey had no choice but to go undercover to help the patients.

When Stalzman talks about how Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder) went undercover in the film "Mr. Deeds", he shows how her motives were unethical because he explained that she went undercover to make Mr. Deeds (Adam Sandler) look like an idiot for personal gain. Since she was not helping a greater good, there was no ethical motive behind her action and she was simply taking advantage of Mr. Deeds and was only deceiving him to make a profit.

Overall, I feel that if an undercover reporter's motives are to help people by exposing a wrong doing, than undercover reporting is acceptable. But, if it is only for personal gain, the action is inexcusable.

Crystal said...

Undercover journalism is not a favorite for reporters because you can’t really do it without deception. However, it is good because some of the best investigative reporters in the history of journalism went undercover to inform the public about wrongdoing by business or government.

Undercover reporting can amount to unethical behavior. It deceives people to talk to you who have little knowledge that you are in fact a reporter. On the contrary, these stories are important to the public that can’t be reported in any other way.

Joe Saltzman would approve of the reporting in the situation described in the article “Parnorma’s care home investigation shows need for undercover journalism” because the reporting was meant to overdue change and protect people who could not defend themselves. For example, when an 18 year old patient told her parents about being abused by staff members, they did not believe her even after watching footage of their daughter being dragged in and out of cold showers. The victim said something and the accusations were ignored.

Reporter Joe Casey obtained more evidence by taking a five week job as a support worker and later found a group of abusive staff. Now the proof was there for everyone to see. He wanted to expose a private hospital called Winterbourne View for mistreating patients so he took a five-week job as a support worker.

In the 1890’s, Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) posed as an insane woman so she could expose the improper conditions in New York City’s notorious Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum. Annie Laurie disguised herself as an indigent patient to expose improper conduct by the staff of San Francisco’s city Hospital. These women along with Terry Bryan exposed corrupt practices by using the stunt journalism technique. What else could they have done to get the information out? They did the right thing exposing the nastiness. Bryan tried to get proper attention, but was ignored. He took the right steps before resulting in reporting undercover. The information obtained is of profound importance. It was of vital public interest (revealing system failure) and prevented profound harm to individuals.
Undercover reporting needs to be deployed when nothing else can be substituted to get the information out to the public eye. Undercover journalism provided proof in order to seek justice for the innocent.

Crystal said...

Undercover journalism is not a favorite for reporters because you can’t really do it without deception. However, it is good because some of the best investigative reporters in the history of journalism went undercover to inform the public about wrongdoing by business or government.

Undercover reporting can amount to unethical behavior. It deceives people to talk to you who have little knowledge that you are in fact a reporter. On the contrary, these stories are important to the public that can’t be reported in any other way.

Joe Saltzman would approve of the reporting in the situation described in the article “Parnorma’s care home investigation shows need for undercover journalism” because the reporting was meant to overdue change and protect people who could not defend themselves. For example, when an 18 year old patient told her parents about being abused by staff members, they did not believe her even after watching footage of their daughter being dragged in and out of cold showers. The victim said something and the accusations were ignored.

Reporter Joe Casey obtained more evidence by taking a five week job as a support worker and later found a group of abusive staff. Now the proof was there for everyone to see. He wanted to expose a private hospital called Winterbourne View for mistreating patients so he took a five-week job as a support worker.

In the 1890’s, Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) posed as an insane woman so she could expose the improper conditions in New York City’s notorious Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum. Annie Laurie disguised herself as an indigent patient to expose improper conduct by the staff of San Francisco’s city Hospital. These women along with Terry Bryan exposed corrupt practices by using the stunt journalism technique. What else could they have done to get the information out? They did the right thing exposing the nastiness. Bryan tried to get proper attention, but was ignored. He took the right steps before resulting in reporting undercover. The information obtained is of profound importance. It was of vital public interest (revealing system failure) and prevented profound harm to individuals.
Undercover reporting needs to be deployed when nothing else can be substituted to get the information out to the public eye. Undercover journalism provided proof in order to seek justice for the innocent.

Jade Schwartz said...

In the reading by Joe Saltzman he explains how some of the greatest reporting has come from undercover journalism. He expresses this through giving examples from different movies and what the results of each had. Although the concept and the overall idea of doing undercover journalism leads to unethical decisions, sometimes, it can result in some of the best journalism.

According to the standards for journalism, journalists’ main goal is seek the truth and report it. In the article posted, Joe Casey did just that. Though he did go undercover and pose as someone he was not, in this specific situation that was the only way to uncover the truth and report it for the public. He did this to find out what exactly was happening in the hospital, probably because he had a hunch that what he thought was going on actually was.

As a result, although what he did would be considered unethical to many, because he pretended to be someone else to find out the real details, document them and them expose them, what he did get out of it was the full on truth. This truth exposed the hospital for what it really was, and all the harm that it was doing to its patients. If Casey did not find this out and report it then parents, community members, or anyone who knew someone there could potentially not believe a word they heard. For example, the 18 year old whose parents didn’t believe her about being abused in the hospital. Because of what Casey did this evidence was uncovered and the public knew the truth about the hospital. Therefore, in this specific case I do think that Saltzman would approve of the type of reporting Casey did.

Carolyn Quimby said...

I think that Joe Saltzman would approve of the undercover reporting in Winterbourne View. Joe Casey took “a five-week job as a support worker” in order to reveal abuse and neglect towards the hospital’s innocent and vulnerable patients. According to the Journalism Code of Ethics, one justifiable use of deception is “when the harm prevented by the information revealed through deception outweighs any harm caused by the act of deception.” The reporting also followed another justifiable use of deception: “when the information obtained is of profound importance. It must be of vital public interest, such as revealing great “system failure” at the stop levels or it must prevent profound harm to individuals.” Casey helped the patients who were being abused, like Simon (an 18 year old girl whose parent’s didn’t even believe her), and future patients who may have also succumbed to the “abusive staff.”

This case is very similar Nellie Bly’s which Saltzman mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. She helped to expose conditions in an insane asylum by posing as a patient. Both Bly’s and Casey’s deception helped to expose awful conditions in the healthcare system which absolutely would defined as “system failure.” Unlike the examples of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” and “Mr. Deeds,” the undercover reporting was not about “scoop” or “gossip” but trying to stop injustice and seek the truth. It seems ironic that in an effort to discover the truth Casey had to completely fabricate his identity and motives, but I think the intention is important. Casey was not trying to get his story onto “Inside Access” (like Babe Bennent) or in a tabloid, he was looking to protect the victims of Winterbourne View. Saltzman says that undercover journalism if often the only means to “reveal massive corruption and malfeasance in government and business.” He does not want television and movies, like “Mr. Deeds,” to trivialize the ethical consequences of undercover reporting, but he recognizes the weight said reporting can have. Saltzman briefly addresses the ends justifying the (morally gray) means, and I think that Casey’s did.

Katie said...

On page 69, Saltzman presents the Society of Professional Journalists’ guidelines for when undercover journalism is justified. The first guideline is “When the information obtained is of profound importance. It must be of vital public interest, such as revealing great ‘system failure’ at the top levels, or it must prevent profound harm to individuals.” I think that the story reported by Panorama meets these criteria.

Complaints of abuse made by a nurse at the hospital, Terry Bryan, had been ignored by his employers and by a government-backed inspectorate. Abuse had also gone undetected during previous inspections. This shows that the reporters had not been overeager to go undercover. Attempts had been made to correct the problems through the traditional channels, but these attempts had very clearly failed. As a result, patients continued to be abused. Going undercover seems to have been one of the only ways to get the attention of the public and the government.

Also, reporter Joe Casey adheres to the next SPJ guideline that the reporters involved are “willing to disclose the nature of the deception and the reason for it.” For these reasons, the undercover reporting done at Winterbourne View was justified. It was done to help patients, such as Simone, who had been treated unfairly and to reveal how various government inspectors did not do their job, leading to more injustices.

Saltzman would stand behind Casey’s actions because, as he writes on page 70, there should be “a place for undercover journalism in situations where the story is of importance to the public welfare.” If the journalism community were to completely reject undercover journalism, instances of abuse such as those at Winterbourne View, would be far less likely to be revealed or corrected.

Mili Ali said...

I believe Joe Saltzman would approve the reporting done in the Panorama’s care home. There is no sign of active deception in this report, to get the information needed. This case, I believe, is similar to Elizabeth Cochrane’s case where she went undercover as a patient in the NYC’s notorious Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum to report improper care by the staff.

I think it’s justifying for a reporter to go undercover in situations where the people need to know the information such a politician’s wrong doing or a Hospital’s misconduct. This is not the same as going undercover to find out what Britney Spears does in her nightlife or twisting the real story like what Babe Bennett did to Mr. Deed, for entertainment purposes.

I think Joe Saltzman would agree with me when I say how you do the reporting undercover is also important. For example, you can’t go undercover as an employee in a hospital without having a background or a certification for what you are employed for because by doing that, you could put someone’s life in danger. Not only that, but as Saltzman pointed out, it’s a crime and if we arrest normal people for doing this, why not reporters? I believe the reporter that went to investigate the Panorama’s care home placed no harm by becoming an employer in the place so it is justifying and saved a lot of the people in the care home.

JP Aponte said...

I absolutely think that Joe Saltzman would approve of this report. Saltzman, other than giving a brief synopsis of each of the two movies, he gave a brief explanation of how journalists are supposed to handle themselves in this type of situation.

He showed a bit of disapproval to the idea behind the movies. It wasn't the idea of journalists going undercover for the assignment, but the assignment itself. The simple fact that Babe Bennett used undercover and deceptive tactics to retrieve information about a millionaire is absurd. But not absurd in the sense of the tactics that were used, but rather the material at hand.

What I took from Saltzman's essay is that these undercover tactics should be used as little as possible so as not to desensitize the public from the true worth of any particular news story. As we have read and seen in the concurrent article, some news is majorly relevant.

Some things need to be exposed, and most of the time a journalist has a hard time gathering facts because he has to introduce himself as a journalist. That is the reason for needing these occasional undercover projects. It is not about sensationalism, even though the material my be sensational. It is about reporting things that have to be changed -- must be changed -- in order to protect people from a harmful situation.

So yes, Joe Saltzman would probably agree.

N01426918 said...
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N01426918 said...
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N01426918 said...

Joe Saltzman emphasizes the danger undercover reporting can pose to the idea of journalism, because undercover reporting goes against journalism's basic code of ethics: To seek the truth accurately and fairly. However, he also explains how undercover journalism is a technique that can be used to uncover deliberately hidden scandals. He brings to our attention that journalists have another priority: to help those in need with our skills. Undercover journalism, though deceitful, can sometimes be the only way to bring injustice to light. Saltzman stresses the delicacy of undercover journalism, and he emphasizes that it should be used as a last-resort.

Therefor, I think Saltzman would approve of the undercover journalism technique that Joe Casey implemented in an attempt to uncover the abuse that was occurring in Winterbourne View. The hospital was ignoring complaints, and inspections that are implemented to prevent this very issue were failing. Most unfortunately, the families of patients were not believing patients' complaints. In an argument regarding the necessity of undercover reporting in this situation, I think Casey would have come out with the upper-hand. He exposed an injustice and saved people from suffering in the only way he saw fit.


-Charlene

Kelsey B said...

I think Saltzman would approve of what Joe Casey did because he exposed a business by showing the public their wrongdoings. Saltzman says, “some of the best investigative reporters in the history of journalism went undercover for the best reasons—to inform the public of wrong doing by business or government.” This private hospital was abusing patients, which is unethical because being in such an environment patients are trusting their care to the employees. If there is any wrongdoing going on in a hospital, it should be exposed.

Saltzman also makes a point that undercover journalism is deceiving to the people your interviewing because it in a way tricks them into thinking they can say what they want without being reported. I understand why people may feel decieved but then it goes back to the saying "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all". In other words, only if you are guilty should you feel threatened by a reporter because their job is really just to report the truth.

Several accusations of abuse were reported but during investigations nothing was found. Undercover journalism allows a different kind of investigation that seems more like a last resort, referring to the article, because I think if evidence was found in the past there would be no need for undercover journalism to he done.

Kelsey B said...

I think Saltzman would approve of what Joe Casey did because he exposed a business by showing the public their wrongdoings. Saltzman says, “some of the best investigative reporters in the history of journalism went undercover for the best reasons—to inform the public of wrong doing by business or government.” This private hospital was abusing patients, which is unethical because being in such an environment patients are trusting their care to the employees. If there is any wrongdoing going on in a hospital, it should be exposed.

Saltzman also makes a point that undercover journalism is deceiving to the people your interviewing because it in a way tricks them into thinking they can say what they want without being reported. I understand why people may feel decieved but then it goes back to the saying "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all". In other words, only if you are guilty should you feel threatened by a reporter because their job is really just to report the truth.

Several accusations of abuse were reported but during investigations nothing was found. Undercover journalism allows a different kind of investigation that seems more like a last resort, referring to the article, because I think if evidence was found in the past there would be no need for undercover journalism to he done.

Maddie Forrester said...

I believe that Joe Saltzman would approve of this instance of undercover reporting. In his chapter, he acknowledges multiple situations that undercover reporting provided great truths people were withheld. These stories were honored because their intentions were honorable. When Joe Casey went into Winterbourne hospital undercover he had the intention to help patients there - an honorable intention to go undercover.

This would have been a instance of honorableness undercover journalism if the outcome was not for the betterment of something and done for ill intent. For example in Mr Deeds, the reporter just wants the next big thing. This intent has no honor but that of self glory for the journalist.

Lauren said...

After reading the chapter, I believe Joe Saltzman would have approved of the reporting of Joe Casey. Saltzman lists what the SPJ considers acceptable undercover journalism and the story provided falls under those requirements. The harm of Casey's deception was not greater than the harm that was done to the patients on a daily basis. The patients described in the article were voiceless and no one would come to their aid. Therefore, undercover research was the only way the abuse would be revealed. Casey brought to light an issue of "profound importance" as stated in the SPJ guidelines because the care center was immediately shut down and the patients were transferred to better facilties. If Casey did not accomplish this, those patients would still be suffering silently. The public did not attack Casey for his undercover deception because the outcome of the patients was more important than Casey being employed under a false name. This undercover tactic will almost always be successul, but should not become a common occurence.

The message I took from Saltzman's writing was that major corruption, abuse, and deception can be stopped by using undercover journalism. However, there is a fine line between what is worth uncovering through deceptive tactics. As journalists, we are supposed to always remain neutral, honest, and objective. Undercovering reporting forces journalists to become hypocritical. Yet, as Saltzman noted in his writing, if the ends justify the means and a reporter is not conducting an undercover story simply for the prize they may win, than it is an acceptable exception to the rule.

Natasha Lende said...

Joe Saltzman would approve of the reporting in the Bristol hospital abuse story. Mainly because it exposed a public wrong-doing and helped better the community. Saltzman emphasizes the importance of undercover reporting as a valuable tool that must not be taken lightly. Undercover journalism is a last resort when action needs to be taken and continually hasn't been. He says in the chapter, "undercover reporting has resulted in stories that reveal massive corruption and malfeasance in government and business. And often undercover journalism is the only way to discover and report on these stories." Since the dawn of undercover journalism, it was at first used to benefit the good of the community. As we talked about in class, right and wrong is usually about doing the most good for the most people. However, as undercover journalism continued, it became a way to get an obscure scoop on people and companies when their topics were dry and they needed something juicy. Saltzman would agree with most journalists when he says, "there is no room in journalism for deception when the story is trivial and insignificant to the daily lives of Americans." Exposing an abusive hospital (which has been a recognized theme in undercover journalism) is exactly the type of BENEFICIAL undercover journalism that journalists/the public/ the ruling class need to appreciate. When action is taken after a wrongdoing is publicly exposed, that's the type of do-good undercover journalism that is applauded and not looked down upon. Saltzman would definitely approve of the type of reporting in this situation because it exposed a lie to make a change for the good of the people.

Jena Lagonia said...

I think that Joe Saltzman would approve of this reporting. In order to be a good muckraker, it is necessary to go undercover. A journalist may not be able to reveal any vital information unless they do actually go undercover. The situation at the hospital described in the article needed to be brought to the public’s attention in order to not only stop it from happening in this hospital but to stop it from ever happening again.

By going undercover in this specific situation, the public is able to get involved and if there is corruption in other hospitals, they might consider doing something about it, so that they don’t get caught as well. The standards of Journalism emphasize the fact that the purpose of Journalism is to get the real facts to the public so that the public is aware. When the public and the government are aware of something they maybe more inept to try to change the way things are. This reason alone tells why undercover reporting can be the best and most effective type of reporting.

There is definitely a place and a time for this type of reporting. It is usually considered unethical to go into a place and pose as someone else to get the honest information you’re looking for. In this case there was strong reasoning behind going undercover, and evidence that the people tried to help this situation in the past and failed. If Casey did not go undercover the problem would have extrapolated and continued.

Christine Nedilsky said...

I think Joe Saltzman would defiantly approve of the secret filming and undercover reporting that went on at Winterbourne View. The violence that the patients were undergoing was shocking. From an outside view, the facility looked like a legitimate care center for people with disabilities. The staff was supposed to helping the patients, not torturing them. The public needed to know the truth. If it wasn't for BBC, these acts of abuse wouldn't of been caught and the truth would never be revealed. Some of the greatest journalism has come from undercover investigations. This can be seen as unethical, but sometimes deception is necessary to discover the truth. Now the abusers can be properly punished and the patients can once again live without fear.

Angela Matua said...

I think Joe Saltzman would approve of Joe Casey's reporting. Patients were abused at Winterbourne View and this information was "of vital public interest" and by reporting this story Casey prevented "profound harm to individuals." The secret cameras were also used as a last resort after people like Terry Bryan tried to inform his employers of the mistreatment present at the facility. The harm prevented by this information also outweighed any harm caused by Casey's deception. Without his reporting, Simone, and others like her would still be in danger. Casey took this five week job to warn others of the abuse at this hospital. Without this undercover reporting, no one would believe him or any of the patients at the hospital. Other measures were taken to uncover this abuse but none of those methods worked. By using "outstanding craftsmanship as well as commitment of the time and funding needed to pursue the story fully," Casey presented the public with a story that exposed corruption and possibly saved lives.

Howie Good said...

i'm sorry to see not everyone has responded. those who did respond, however, are to be congratulated on the thorough job they did. tomorrow (wednesday) we'll examine more cases of undercover reporting in detail and apply the Potter Box and Bok Model to them.

Awkward Sexy Tiger said...
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Felicity Pickering said...

Joe Saltzman definitely approve of this situation. The fact that the child’s parents had ignored her attempts to report her abuse is horrifying. Joe Saltzman would approve of this as he says ‘For the last century, courageous journalists have risked their lives to undercover corruption and wrongdoing. They were once considered honourable and received a hero’s welcome when the job was done. Even then, too few journalists were willing to take risks necessary to do such exposes. The future of this kind of investigative reporting, the last resort of the crusading journalist and the last hope for the public’s right to know, could fade if undercover journalism is rejected completely. ‘

I think it was just to use undercover journalism under these circumstances is completely just.

Molly Jane said...

Undercover reporting is certainly a difficult dilemma to tackle. Although the idea of secretly reporting does seem unethical, in cases such as the one in the article it actually revealed a more serious moral situation. It the article presents an important argument that “it is essential that journalists sometimes adopt subterfuge –on the other hand, the technique must be deployed with care, so as not to devalue its role. It is a method of last resort.” I agree that undercover journalism should not be used unless absolutely necessary and as a last resort, like in cases such as this one where the people involved in the case have no way of defending themselves.
I think that Joe Saltzman would approve of the reporting in this case because the reporting was used to illuminate an injustice that was happening at the job. He mentions multiple examples of great journalists who went undercover to get rare details of unjust situations. In "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" and the later "Mr. Deeds," the character Babe Bennett goes undercover to expose Deeds as an idiot so that she can get the juicy features. Her tactics are simply for her own personal gain and not to expose and valuable information but information just for the sake of entertainment. Her stories are fabrications of the truth, twisted to paint an ugly picture of Mr. Deeds. Therefore undercover journalism tactics should only be used if and when they are necessary and not for the sole purpose of entertainment or gossip.

Is Media Ethics Education DOA?

It sounds like a joke Jay Leno would tell during his opening monologue on The Tonight Show. Hear about the graduate students at the prestigious journalism school? They got caught cheating on an ethics exam. Ha ha ha. Except that’s actually what happened at Columbia University in late 2006.

Students had been given 48 hours to sign onto a Columbia Web site to take the final exam in a required course called “Critical Issues in Journalism.” They then had 90 minutes to answer two essay questions.

The students were warned to not discuss the questions with each other, but apparently they did. As the headline over a story reporting the scandal put it, “Ivy J-Schoolers Fail Ethics, Ace Irony.”

No one admitted cheating despite pressure from the school’s administrators and pleas from classmates, who feared the scandal would damage the market value of their degrees. Meanwhile, the teacher of the course, New York Times columnist Samuel G. Freedman, refused to comment. But if the disgruntled posts on RateMyProfessors.com are any indication, his students hadn’t exactly been soaking up knowledge. “Maybe he could e-mail his ‘speeches’ to the students instead of making everyone suffer through the most wasted class in j-school. . . ,” one read.

There’s an old cowboy saying that goes, “When your horse dies, get off.” Journalism ethics education is a dead horse. Or else those aren’t vultures circling in the sky.

A Question for Socrates


The question of how ethics is learned, or even if it can be, is as old as Western philosophy. In Plato’s dialog Meno the title character asks, “Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?” Of course, Socrates, being Socrates, resists giving a definite answer. But we can’t. The sad fact is, students had better get an effective ethics education now or they may never.


Last summer I conducted an ethics workshop for some reporters and editors at the Poughkeepsie Journal, a small daily in upstate
New York owned by Gannett Co., Inc. The woman in charge of organizing the workshop had supplied us with several case studies to examine. I remember one dealt with a classic conflict of interest, a copy editor who moonlighted at a local radio station.

But what I remember most is the air of defeat that clung to the staff as we sat on hard plastic chairs in the break room discussing the cases. I could hear in their voices the bitterness and cynicism of employees forced to follow corporate policies they despised. Recently, for example, the paper had started running display ads on the front page and section fronts, a much more grievous ethical lapse, their mumbled asides suggested, than anything the case studies might have to offer.

I don’t want my students to ever wear the gray, defeated expression I saw that day on the faces at the Journal. But given the downward direction in which the media are moving, and fast, how in the world can I prevent it from happening?

Teaching Media Ethics by Telling Stories

A friend of mine who teaches at a big Midwestern university recounts in class the events of her first week as a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. She was sent to Duluth to cover Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey on the campaign trail. When they were introduced, Humphrey vigorously shook her hand. “Oh yes, Susan,” he said, “I read your stuff all the time.” He couldn’t have read her stuff, though; she hadn’t written anything yet. “Just a few words,” she explains to her students, “but words that taught this fledging reporter a great lesson about pols and the little lies they tell.”

I usually find occasion during the semester to quote I. F. Stone’s dictum, “Every government is run by liars and thieves, and nothing they say should be believed,” to make the same point. But Susan’s story makes the point better. That’s because it has existential force. Her story vividly captures in a way a secondhand quote can’t the realities of a reporter’s life.

Some might think telling “war stories” is a waste of precious class time. I’ve a colleague who didn’t want to fall into the “trap” of regaling students with stories ad nauseam (“which, let’s face it, is easier than teaching or grading,” he said). So one semester he kept track. When he toted it all up at the end, he was surprised that he’d used less than an hour - out of 45 – talking about his newspaper experiences. And yet, he admitted, it was his stories that students seemed to remember most.

“Stories teach us how to live,” Daniel Taylor said in his essay, “The Ethical Implications of Storytelling.” What he meant was that stories preserve our experience for contemplation and evaluation. Although not all stories carry a heavy message, there’s an entire category of stories, so-called “exemplary tales,” that are told to convey a moral.

Our war stories are potentially just such tales. They can provide evidence, in ethicist John Barton’s words, of “how real human beings live through various crises and trials and remain human.” My colleague who kept tabs on his storytelling has described his stories as cautionary. Most, he said, deal with “screwups I learned from.”

But sometimes the storyteller and the audience can’t agree on what exactly the moral of a story is.

When Susan was a cub reporter on the Tribune, she interviewed the Beatles, who were on their second tour of the States. She got into their hotel room by dressing up as a waitress in an ugly, mustard-colored uniform and accompanying an actual room service waiter upstairs. Ringo took one look at her little plastic name tag – it read “Donna Brown” – and snorted, “What kind of name is that?” The waiter nudged her in the side. “Tell them what you real name is,” he urged. She did, as well as her reason for being there. Rather than throw her out, the Beatles politely answered her questions. They even let her phone for a photographer. The next day her story ran on the front page, with a photo of John sitting at a table and looking up at her and laughing as she poured coffee in his cup. She still has a glossy print of that photo somewhere.

Many of Susan’s students think she’s nuts for not having the photo hanging up in her office. They also think she’s nuts for saying she’d never participate in the same kind of stunt today. To her celebrity-struck students, disguising herself as a hotel waitress to get an interview with the Beatles seems soooo cool. They lose all sight of the fact that it wasn’t a story of vital public interest that demanded undercover methods.

Susan intends one lesson when she talks about her hard day’s night, but her students, living in a paparazzi-saturated culture, draw another. “It may be a lost cause,” she remarked to me.

Or maybe not. Negotiations over what the point of a story is can be part of the point of the story. In the process of negotiating, we test different interpretations, try out different themes. This is helpful. This is educational. Lawrence Kohlberg, the Harvard psychologist famous for his research on the stages of moral development, contended that “the teaching of virtue is the asking of questions. . . not the giving of answers.” Stories don’t necessarily have to yield clear moral rules to be of value. It’s enough sometimes if they just give us something to think about.