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  2. 2. BROADCAST IN A BOX GREAT IDEAS FOR YOUR CLASSROOM GETTING STARTED IN HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM RADIO AND TELEVISION NEWS DIRECTORS FOUNDATION HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT SUPPORTED BY THE JOHN S. AND JAMES L. KNIGHT FOUNDATION PART I • Best Practices in High School Electronic Journalism • By Dale Russell PART II • Ethical Decision-Making and News Judgment: Case Studies • By Bob Steele Radio and Television News Directors Foundation High School Electronic Journalism Project Supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation RTNDF President: Barbara Cochran • Director, Education Projects: Carol Knopes Project Manager, High School Journalism Project: Carolyn Terry Project Coordinator, High School Journalism Project: Michael Song Editor: Rosalind Stark Graphic Designer: Paul Fisher •
  3. 3. ABOUT THE AUTHORS Dale Russell is senior investigative reporter and head of the I-Team at WAGA-TV FOX 5 in Atlanta, Ga. Russell also periodically instructs Teacher Ambassadors and other journalism advisers and students through RTNDF’s several high school journalism training opportunities. Bob Steele is The Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., and was director of Poynter’s ethics program for 15 years. A veteran broadcast journalist, Steele was a reporter, executive producer and news director for local television stations in Maine, Wisconsin and Iowa. He and his Poynter colleague, Al Tompkins, work closely with RTNDF in its ethics programs for professional electronic journalists. iv BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  4. 4. FOREWORD RTNDF is pleased to offer “Great Ideas for Your Classroom: Getting Started in High School Electronic Journalism.” This book, and the accompanying DVD, are part of a package of materials titled “Broadcast in a Box.” The package is intended as a toolkit for educators who work with students or who hope to get started working with them in the important area of electronic high school journalism. We know that many young people want to study journalism, and we also know, thanks to research by Jack Dvorak and his colleagues at the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., just what are the impediments to their doing so: school budget constraints and teachers who perceive themselves to be ill-equipped to teach journalism in general and, in particular, electronic journalism. What’s more, a new survey, commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and released in January 2005, reports that schools are failing to give high school students an appreciation of the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech and a free press. This survey suggests that student understanding of our First Amendment rights would be far greater if schools included First Amendment study as part of the regular curriculum and if support for student participation in student media were stronger. So what’s a professional journalism organization to do? For RTNDF and its parent organization RTNDA, the answer is simple: We are working with high schools across the country to support the practice of electronic journalism. Thanks to a generous, multiyear grant from Knight Foundation, RTNDF’s High School Electronic Journalism Project has developed a multifaceted approach to supporting and sustaining interest in broadcast journalism among young people. Many professional newsrooms have joined the project and are working with schools in their areas and, we hope, many more will do so in the years to come. Support from the professional media is critical to the success of fledgling high school electronic journalism programs, and RTNDF and RTNDA are committed to this important work. With this booklet, “Great Ideas for Your Classroom,” and the DVD that accompanies it, we hope to give journalism advisers a taste of what is possible at the high school level; we also hope to show how the study of journalism ethics is the essential underpinning of all good journalism. If you are a high school teacher reading this, we wish you every success in this important endeavor. Please use all the materials in “Broadcast in a Box” and share them with your educator colleagues. We urge you to call on RTNDF for advice and support; we want to help and have many ways of doing so. Barbara Cochran RTNDF President BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT v
  5. 5. HOW TO USE THIS BOOK AND ACCOMPANYING DVD “Great Ideas for Your Classroom: Getting Started in High School Electronic Journalism,” and the DVD that accompanies the book, are intended as starting points for teaching. The materials give many examples of what it is possible to do with high school students who are interested in journalism. They also help you consider the important area of journalism ethics, as a way to guide your students through a decision-making process to support good, credible journalism. Curriculum materials on the subject of journalism—and high school journalism in particular— are plentiful. To find course outlines and suggestions for electronic journalism, please go to RTNDF’s high school journalism Web site ( and look for examples. We will regularly add contributions from educators to this Web site. To find lesson plans and other helpful tips on general journalism instruction, go to High school electronic journalism teachers—and their students—should find many ways to use “Great Ideas.” These materials have been created with flexibility in mind. The parts can be used separately, and sections within those parts can be used individually in a variety of classroom settings and schedules. To use Part I, “Best Practices in High School Electronic Journalism,” you may want to preview all the sample student stories that appear on the DVD and show those that will resonate with your students. (Is yours a school where cheerleading is a popular activity? Then start with Cost of Cheering. Do you want students to think about sensitivity to BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 1
  6. 6. GREAT IDEAS FOR YOUR CLASSROOM PART I: BEST PRACTICES IN HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM Commentary by Dale Russell Editor’s Note: To view the video selections that accompany this commentary, go to Part I of the DVD included in “Broadcast in a Box.” Showcased on the DVD is the work of eight high schools. RTNDF has selected these schools and their electronic journalism programs as a way to help other programs learn what is possible for high school students to do. Student broadcasters of every level of expertise—at large, medium and small schools across the country— produced the stories offered here. Many are long-form stories that won prestigious scholastic journalism awards. You’ll see the awards listed by the entries in the pages that follow and on the printed cover of the DVD. Not all entries have won official awards; nor is every selection technically perfect. We have included the eight selections and have invited commentary and analysis by professional journalist Dale Russell to help provide pointers to others hoping to produce strong high school radio and television programs. Russell offers suggestions for similar story ideas and lessons that other schools might emulate. He also shares ideas about ways some of the selections could have been strengthened. His broadcast critiques represent his opinions, based on 30 years of experience working on his own award-winning stories and, as he puts it, “learning from my mistakes.” Special thanks to Jonathan Ebinger, who manages RTNDF’s Global Perspectives in Local News Project and its German/American Journalist Exchange Program. Ebinger, a former producer for ABC News’ “Nightline” and for ESPN, contributed commentary on “One Wild Ride.” RTNDF will provide periodic additions to these selections on its Web site for the high school electronic journalism program: BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 3
  7. 7. INTRODUCTION I have seen the future of journalism—and it looks bright. I saw the future on the streets of San came into journalism in the heyday of Francisco as I walked arm in arm with a Watergate, a time when journalists were brash high school student who happens to more likely to be viewed as trusted public be blind. She made her way through servants continuing the time-honored work thousands protesting the onset of war in of holding the powerful accountable. Iraq and half a dozen potential interviews until she found one amazing story. It was Tomorrow’s journalists face challenging about a veteran who had lost his brothers times. Not only have we seen a huge in Vietnam, but was at the San Francisco proliferation of media—hundreds of protest to show support for the new war. channels, thousands of “blogs”—but also, attention to mainstream journalism is I saw the future in the eyes of Jesus declining, especially among the younger Gonzalez, as he regaled me over lunch with set. stories about how easy it is to get guns in his neighborhood and his astonishing views What do we veterans know about the on the way New York police treat Latino journalists of tomorrow? youths. Jesus had done stories on these topics and more, including a commentary Two years ago, when I began working for advising Mayor Bloomberg on how to fix RTNDF’s High School Electronic Journalism New York schools, for WNYC’s Radio Project, I wasn’t sure what I’d find, whom I Rookies training program in that city. would teach, and what I expected them to learn. Would I encounter apathetic slackers I heard the future in stories from other with exposed midriffs, baggy pants, Radio Rookies participants, who dissect multiple piercings and attitude? and unravel their own lives in autobiographical pieces that make you Would students listen? Would teachers laugh, cry and walk away with a better care? The answers came quickly. understanding of what it means to travel in another person’s shoes. We immediately discovered that you teach high school students the way you teach I saw the future in Springfield, Mo., in the college students, small-market reporters work of the students of Hillcrest High and photographers and large-market School’s Dave Davis, who is as good a journalists. You teach the basics of teacher as I’ve ever met and, in my book, journalism, stressing accuracy, accuracy, one of the best “news directors” in accuracy, balance, accountability and America. ethics. You teach them at a high level because it doesn’t take long to realize they Let’s face it. Ours is a battered and bruised already have jumped over the bar you had industry. We are not well liked, nor hoped to set for them. particularly trusted. Every day our work is dissected and scrutinized by radio, And they listen. Boy, do they listen. They television and newspaper pundits of all soak up all you can throw at them and political stripes. We watch as our industry’s come back asking for more. They write, at brightest stars make mistakes that cast a times squeaky-clean copy, wedded to the dark shadow across all our work. video and they shoot as steady as a tank embedded in desert sand. They find This is tough to accept for those of us who wonderful, tough, quirky and funny stories 4 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  8. 8. that highlight the world of the American able to help kids tell the stories of your adolescent. They are devoted to finding the school in ways that matter to them. Teach truth and just as devoted to making the them how to report with precision, truth compelling television. accuracy, sensitivity and thought, in ways no other journalist can because no one The stories in Best Practices in High School knows the community the way they do. Electronic Journalism vary from first efforts Teach the students to do this work because to national award winners. You will see the rest of us need you to. Do this for the mistakes. Shaky camera work, poor sound, future of journalism. awkward writing, stiff on-air performance. You also will see emotional, gut-wrenching And when you do, those of us who are stories of life-and-death issues. veteran journalists will rest easy, knowing that tomorrow’s lights are shining brighter Watch closely. Learn from the mistakes. every day. Emulate the winners. —Dale Russell Watch closely and apply what you learn in Senior Investigative Reporter your own program. Watch so you will be WAGA-TV BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 5
  9. 9. YOU DIDN’T HEAR THE BIRDS SING Hillcrest High School, Springfield, Mo. Megan Matrone Winner: 2002 National Scholastic Press Association Broadcast Story of the Year This is a great story with The reporters let the characters talk, giving few flaws. It’s a powerful them room to show their personalities and tale that puts a fresh face on their pain, as well as their hopes and a compelling topic. dreams. We see a nice use of photographs to bring life to the parents who have “You Didn’t Hear the Birds passed away. Sing” is the story of a local teen who lost both parents Like so many others on this DVD, the to AIDS. It captures the pain reporters missed a couple of good chances of his loss through strong for natural sound. One good chance would interviews. have been when the grandmother was interviewed. Another, when the boy walks Don Hewitt, the legendary producer of the campus alone. In addition, when we CBS’ “60 Minutes,” says the secret to that learn that the high school student lives show’s success was that “people listen to alone, I wanted to see where he lived and television.” He knew the power of great what his place looked like. characters telling compelling stories could match even the power of strong video. From a factual point of view, I also wanted Megan Matrone’s is a “60 Minutes”-style to hear a little bit about how the American story. blood donation system is checked more closely now than it was in the 1980s. I think that would be fair to today’s blood- donor institutions. YOUR SCHOOL, YOUR STORY How do you deal with the issue of privacy, especially with But all in all, this is a terrific bit of regard to young interview subjects? Casey Martin is a Hillcrest journalism. One to watch and learn from. High School graduate by the time Megan Matrone reported the story. He is able to give consent to Megan and understands the implications of discussing his parents’ death from AIDS. If you were interviewing teens still in high school, how might you deal with these issues? Could you tell the story as effectively without divulging personal information? What techniques could you use? What might be the impact of a story like this on its subject? Would classmates treat him or her differently? 6 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  10. 10. GAHANNA BILL Gahanna Lincoln High School, Gahanna, Ohio David Spunt Winner: 2003 Ryan White Excellence in Journalism Award There is much to brag about in this sound of the scene and use wonderful profile of a disabled, long-time it to let stories “breathe” employee of the local high school. The and come alive. selection of Bill as the focus tells me these are young journalists with a keen eye for I think it took too long to what makes a great story. hear from Bill. Clearly, he is a challenge to interview, but The piece starts slowly, setting the scene of I wanted to hear his own a small town, then quickly introduces us to words earlier, to see for Bill. Note the use of old pictures, home myself how his disability movies and a simple shot of Bill’s bedroom affects him. Finally, there to tell the viewer who and what Bill is was too much music. Natural sound would about. One complaint: When the reporter have been a much better way to tell the talks about Bill’s parents dying, I wanted to story. see the parents’ pictures there. Try to match pictures to the writing whenever But all in all, this story is a gut-wrencher and possible. one that should make its creators proud. Consider a story’s beginning, middle and This is the kind of heart-warming story that end. I love to bring stories full circle. The makes principals want to stand up and graduation might have made a more shout with joy. Air a few like this and you’ll compelling opening scene. Always try to soon be able to do tougher, hard-edged begin with either your best video or best stories. This piece tells volumes about what sound. If that’s not possible, you must makes Gahanna Lincoln High School write a compelling lead. Use lots of natural special. I know from experience that this is sound over the cheering and hugging, and the kind of story a young journalist never write something like, “Many of us take forgets. graduation for granted, but for Bill, nothing could be taken for granted.” Then start the story and bring it back to the graduation again at the end. YOUR SCHOOL, YOUR STORY Look for the “Bills” in your school. Talk to cafeteria workers, As was true for the first story on the DVD, janitors, the oldest teacher, the youngest. Find out who are the reporters here missed many great your school’s compelling characters and tell their stories. opportunities for natural sound: Bill hugging his friends, his graduation, Rearrange some elements of the story structure. Watch the working on the football field. Get that story closely. Break it down into segments. Think of how many microphone in there, pick up the natural different ways you could tell Bill’s story. BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 7
  11. 11. COST OF CHEERING DeKalb County School System, Decatur, Ga. Sade Miller This is a good local high I am becoming a broken record on this school story that asks topic: We need to hear more natural sound serious questions: Why is it and, when we have it, we need to use it so expensive to be a more effectively. Let’s hear it, for example, cheerleader? Is it worth it? before that first line from the reporter, “Cheerleading is a common sport enjoyed Our young journalist sets up by girls in DeKalb County.” We missed a interviews with parents, a great natural sound-on-tape (nat/SOT) cheerleading coach and the opportunity at the fundraiser. Natural athletic director. She asks sound is what makes a story come alive. some tough questions that Use it as often as you can. make the athletic director squirm. Good job! She fleshes out the many sides of the Also, we saw an entire story on issue well. But: I also would like to have cheerleading and I never saw one heard a quick bite from football parents. Is cheerleader in uniform. Everything was it different for them? Do they receive more shot at one practice. Let’s see the school support? We saw an entire story on cheerleaders in action, at a game. And if high school cheerleaders, but no interviews there is no game, get pictures of them in with cheerleaders themselves. Why not? uniform. When the cheerleading coach first spoke, we didn’t introduce her. The “super” (name and description telling viewers who YOUR SCHOOL, YOUR STORY is speaking) is not enough. Many people Choose an extra-curricular school activity. Investigate how listen to TV without watching. They are much it costs for a student to participate. Which activities cost cooking dinner, playing with the kids, the most: sports, music, drama. Why? doing housework. It is important to show who is speaking with both written and Be a television critic. Sometimes the shots of girls cheering spoken IDs. seemed to drop into the story out of thin air. How would you do it differently? Overall, I’d say journalist Sade Miller did a good job picking a topic and exploring the How do students in your school raise money to pay for issues. A few simple changes would have participating in activities? made her story sing. 8 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  12. 12. ONE WILD RIDE Henry County High School, New Castle, Ky. Tracy Tipton and Megan Foree This is a good piece that explains what’s I liked that the students involved with bull riding. The intro is a bit worked to show James in his unusual; I presume a standard intro for these helmet over the track line students’ stories is a “2-shot” with the about his recently obtaining student hosts. The students made good use headgear. However, the shot of James’ sound, featuring him prominently, was so short—fewer than 30 having him explain in his own words why he frames—that it seriously likes the sport, what’s involved with it and compromised the story’s what the costs have been. pacing. Consistency is important. If you’re cutting Broadcasters have equipment that can do 15-20 frame shots for a piece, cool things with sound, graphics and go with it. But in a story with 30- and 40- image, but this doesn’t mean we should second static shots of an interview subject, use that equipment on every piece. The a fast shot of the helmet seems off kilter. sound effect on the word “bullrider” at the top of the story was good, and draws you The students might have shot pieces of in, but the graphics package should have equipment that James described (helmet, come under this sound, not 10 seconds chaps, Kevlar vest) after the interview, so later. This created too long an intro for a they could drop in shots or create a short piece, wasting time. Also, showing graphic montage to show, up close, what James in slow motion coming out of the James was describing. gate at the top of the piece undercuts what the students are trying to document: And there’s a lost opportunity: The reporter Bullriding is a fast and dangerous sport indicates that James went to the hospital that requires conditioning and discipline. following one ride and we see the spill that “Slo-mo” does the opposite and more sent him there. But where’s the rest of the typically is used to enhance dramatic story? This is big news. We hear nothing moments or showcase something in more about this and can’t tell the nature of particular we want the viewer to notice. his injuries, the length (if any) of his stay in the hospital, when this kept him from The piece would benefit from more video competing and whether he will (or is able of James performing. It seems as though to) continue competing. the reporter only went to one of his competitions —and at that one, James was This is a decent piece, covering some good injured. Tape of James performing could ground with an unusual subject, but one have run over his interview, after the viewer that could have gone further with a little has developed a sense of who he is, what more work and time. he looks like, how he speaks, etc. Instead, we have a long, somewhat static interview YOUR SCHOOL, YOUR STORY of James in front of a fence; this could have been done anywhere. We soon tire of this Seek out students participating in activities that are not backdrop, so dramatic video to cover necessarily sponsored by your school. See if you can arrange to portions of the interview would have been document those activities—what students are involved, how helpful. they became interested, how much they practice, what special equipment they need, etc. BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 9
  13. 13. MARATHON Stratford High School, Goose Creek, S.C. Daniel Winegardner Winner: 2004 Southern Interscholastic Press Association Broadcast Award There is much to like here: student been running? What started him “Marathon” is a wonderful running? Why did he become a distance slice-of-life piece. We meet runner? How early does he get up to train? two young athletes doing Does he have time to participate in any other something unusual and sports? difficult. The more you flesh out the characters, the Look at the story closely. The better your story will be. Strong characters student journalists chose to set make the story compelling. One piece of the scene with a shot of the advice: Use some pictures of runners in old Kiawah Island marathon races, or even a young boy running around banner. This is certainly one way to open the outside. In this story, the entire drama story. In fact, when you tell television stories unfolds at the marathon. When you are you should think of them as small three-act “landlocked” like that, use your plays, with beginning, middle and end. The imagination to bring in other elements to beginning usually sets the scene and often break up the scene. This would be true for introduces the main “characters” in your story. any TV story: Remember, if you have a three-act play, you want to change the There are many ways one could open this scenery every now and then. story. A shot of the student runners warming up would work: stretching, jogging, The student journalists did a good job of preparing to run. Quick shots of the race getting out and shooting the characters scene. Showing how runners of all ages are during the race. That was critical and well getting ready for the 26-mile jaunt. done. A side note: When you have one main Whichever open you pick, quickly introduce character (and you rarely have time for more your “characters”—the student runners. than one) with a side character, don’t forget to introduce us to that second character. The middle of the story is where you work in There was a great moment in this story, the facts. Who is running? Why? What did it when, soon after finishing, the second take to prepare? The basic who-what-when- runner, Dylan Patrick, tries to talk but is out where. Our journalists answered all these of breath. This is the “pearl” or humor that questions. But I would have liked to see works so well in TV stories. But the them delve deeper. How long has the journalists didn’t set him up well. He came in out of the blue. A nice line reintroducing him and perhaps saying, “What does Dylan YOUR SCHOOL, YOUR STORY Patrick have to say about running a marathon for the first time? Not much.” Always, always shoot a standup for your stories. It is important in Then we hear him huffing and puffing. TV journalism to do them well. You might as well practice now. Humor always needs a set up. Cover a local race in your community. Are there student In all, this is a good subject because it covers participants? Senior citizen participants? Disabled participants? Focus athletes who often are overlooked (runners). on runners (or cyclists, or swimmers) who may be out of the “Marathon” is a story that would make any “mainstream” and tell their stories. What makes them newsworthy? school proud. 10 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  14. 14. MUSIC PIRACY James Hubert High School, Silver Spring, Md. Sally Lok Winner: 2004 National Student Television Award for Excellence This is a strong journalistic report that teacher and student examines the question: Is it OK to steal, at together. There is also a least when it comes to songs downloaded great opportunity for some from the Internet? natural sound. This piece relies heavily on graphics. And that administrator who Fortunately, the graphics were done with said he didn’t have a style, but I still prefer to see more “real” problem with “stealing”? video and interviews with subjects. Still, it I would love to have seen was clear the reporters were using many some clever writing setting tools in the tool kit here; the story lent him up, with a line like this: itself to this type of coverage. “You won’t believe who thinks it’s okay to download for free: our own I liked the easygoing opening, even the use administrator...” That way, you would have of slang (“naaaa”) in response to the set up the punch line for a pretty good question about how music executives make joke. money. I also wanted to see some video outside of But it took too long to get to the interview. school, perhaps a music store owner At first it wasn’t clear who was talking. talking about the issue, or people buying Was it an interview or a speech? You can CDs. Open it up and put as many set up the people who are about to speak additional perspectives into the story as by using a sentence as simple as: “Ask possible. students from our school what they think and you hear a variety of opinions.” This story works because it is a serious issue. The reporters talked to a lot of I see improvements that could have been people, covering most of the angles of the made in the story’s structure. The teen controversy. vocalist and the choral teacher are two strong elements of a segment. Think of them as story-building blocks; put the two YOUR SCHOOL, YOUR STORY together. The reporter might have said, Remember, you are writing for the ear. Write the way people “We couldn’t interview Britney Spears, but talk. When you finish a script, read it out loud. Does it sound we did talk to people who love making conversational? Would you say it that way? If not, rewrite it music and they can understand why artists until it sounds like someone telling a story to a friend. are unhappy.” Then you would introduce BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 11
  15. 15. S.O.S. (SPEAK OUT FOR STEPHANIE) BVTV, Blue Valley Schools 229 Overland Park, Kan. Matt Hayward and Lara Wilinsky Winner: 2004 National Student Television Award for Excellence heighten drama). Remember, you’re This story is a gem. It is hearing this from a reporter, not a powerful and extremely well photographer. Don’t overuse artistic license told. with this technique. If you add color to an interview, I believe there should be a Let’s start with the reason, a strong motive, for it. Are you beginning. The reporter tells trying to evoke an emotion? Does the use the story as a bit of mystery. of color fit with the feeling of the story? Who is this girl? What happened to her? I was I like the reporter’s standup, with one hooked immediately. criticism. The reporter says a new law “is I sensed something had gone terribly saving lives” but we don’t hear exactly wrong, but I didn’t know what. As the how that happens. We know Stephanie’s story unfolded, the horror of Stephanie’s family helped pass a law against sexual life was worse than I had imagined. predators, but the reporter doesn’t fully explain what the regulation states. Never The writing is simple, clear and clean. assume people in the audience know It is everything young journalists should anything about the story. Make it clear for strive for. them. If you say “they passed a law,” define what that law does. The lighting in these interviews was excellent: Top 10-market quality. However, I The ending was both upsetting and advise students to be careful with color heartwarming: a nice conclusion to a (the use of focused, colored lighting to powerful story. When high school journalists produce this caliber of work, the future of our business looks bright. YOUR SCHOOL, YOUR STORY What if Stephanie’s parents didn’t wish to be interviewed? Can you think of other ways to tell this story? 12 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  16. 16. A CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, Conn. Erica L. Jorgensen Winner: 2004 National Student Television Award for Excellence This is creative storytelling by a student peeves. Let the story’s who was committed to finding the truth. characters have their say. In this case, the truth is about her own life Don’t rely on music for and what it’s like to be the child of biracial sentimentality, especially parents. when you have strong, honest answers to some First of all, I love that the young journalist tough questions. I’d rather chose to do this piece in black and white. hear natural sound in a It was the perfect choice for the subject story than music. matter. The interviews were framed and shot well and the editing was clean. A technical point: Hide your microphone during the interview; it They are wonderful interviews—long at distracts the viewer. You can easily run a times—but also refreshingly honest. That is lavaliere microphone down a person’s shirt. so hard to do with issues of race, yet this If there is just one person shooting the student pulled it off with the skill of a interview and using a stick mic, make sure veteran. And in great National Public Radio it is out of the frame. Let the viewer style, she lets her subjects speak, giving concentrate on the subject. viewers a special sense of who these people are and how they feel. The ending was well written and brought a smile to my face. I learned about this girl, Another bonus is the way the journalist her family and the difficulties of interracial expertly weaves in old photos of her marriage. What more could I want at the parents that help to develop their end of a story? characters. The wedding pictures were perfect for capturing the joy on a special day in the life of her black mother and white father. YOUR SCHOOL, YOUR STORY Is your school multi-racial? What other types of diversity are One thought: To help set the stage, she present? might have used some photos from the era in which her parents met. What was going How much music is too much? Discuss when to use music as on in the world when they fell in love? background or to create the mood. Do you have the copyright Was it during the Cold War, the Vietnam holders’ or artists’ permission to use the music? If not, replace War, Woodstock? it with music you can download for free or ask a local band to contribute tunes. My biggest complaint is this: There was too much music. I have seen this in many What factors might lead you to consider using black and white student stories, and it is one of my pet film instead of color? BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 13
  17. 17. RTNDA’S CODE OF ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT The Radio-Television News TRUTH Directors Association, Professional electronic journalists should wishing to foster the highest pursue truth aggressively and present the professional standards of news accurately, in context, and as electronic journalism, completely as possible. promote public understanding of and Professional electronic journalists should: confidence in electronic 1 Continuously seek the truth. journalism, and strengthen 2 Resist distortions that obscure the principles of journalistic importance of events. freedom to gather and 3 Clearly disclose the origin of disseminate information, establishes this information and label all material Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. provided by outsiders. Professional electronic journalists PREAMBLE should not: 4 Report anything known to be false. Professional electronic journalists should 5 Manipulate images or sounds in any operate as trustees of the public, seek the way that is misleading. truth, report it fairly and with integrity and 6 Plagiarize. independence, and stand accountable for 7 Present images or sounds that are their actions. reenacted without informing the public. PUBLIC TRUST FAIRNESS Professional electronic journalists should Professional electronic journalists should recognize that their first obligation is to the present the news fairly and impartially, public. placing primary value on significance and relevance. Professional electronic journalists should: 1 Understand that any commitment other Professional electronic journalists should: than service to the public undermines 1 Treat all subjects of news coverage with trust and credibility. respect and dignity, showing particular 2 Recognize that service in the public compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. interest creates an obligation to reflect 2 Exercise special care when children are the diversity of the community and involved in a story and give children guard against oversimplification of greater privacy protection than adults. issues or events. 3 Seek to understand the diversity of 3 Provide a full range of information to their community and inform the public enable the public to make enlightened without bias or stereotype. decisions. 4 Present a diversity of expressions, 4 Fight to ensure that the public’s opinions, and ideas in context. business is conducted in public. 5 Present analytical reporting based on professional perspective, not personal bias. 6 Respect the right to a fair trial. 14 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  18. 18. INTEGRITY INDEPENDENCE Professional electronic journalists should Professional electronic journalists should present the news with integrity and defend the independence of all journalists decency, avoiding real or perceived from those seeking influence or control conflicts of interest, and respect the dignity over news content. and intelligence of the audience as well as the subjects of news. Professional electronic journalists should: 1 Gather and report news without fear or Professional electronic journalists should: favor, and vigorously resist undue 1 Identify sources whenever possible. influence from any outside forces, Confidential sources should be used including advertisers, only when it is clearly in the public sources, story subjects, interest to gather or convey important powerful individuals, information or when a person providing and special interest information might be harmed. groups. Journalists should keep all commitments 2 Resist those who would to protect a confidential source. seek to buy or politically 2 Clearly label opinion and commentary. influence news content 3 Guard against extended coverage of or who would seek to events or individuals that fails to intimidate those who significantly advance a story, place the gather and disseminate event in context, or add to the public the news. knowledge. 3 Determine news content solely through 4 Refrain from contacting participants in editorial judgment and not as the result violent situations while the situation is of outside influence. in progress. 4 Resist any self-interest or peer pressure 5 Use technological tools with skill and that might erode journalistic duty and thoughtfulness, avoiding techniques service to the public. that skew facts, distort reality, or 5 Recognize that sponsorship of the news sensationalize events. will not be used in any way to 6 Use surreptitious newsgathering determine, restrict, or manipulate techniques, including hidden cameras or content. microphones, only if there is no other 6 Refuse to allow the interests of way to obtain stories of significant ownership or management to influence public importance and only if the news judgment and content technique is explained to the audience. inappropriately. 7 Disseminate the private transmissions of 7 Defend the rights of the free press for other news organizations only with all journalists, recognizing that any permission. professional or government licensing of journalists is a violation of that Professional electronic journalists freedom. should not: 8 Pay news sources who have a vested interest in a story. 9 Accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage. 10 Engage in activities that may compromise their integrity or independence. BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 15
  19. 19. ACCOUNTABILITY 5 Refrain from ordering or encouraging courses of action that would force Professional electronic employees to commit an unethical act. journalists should recognize 6 Carefully listen to employees who raise that they are accountable ethical objections and create for their actions to the environments in which such objections public, the profession, and and discussions are encouraged. themselves. 7 Seek support for and provide opportunities to train employees in Professional electronic ethical decision-making. journalists should: 1 Actively encourage adherence to these In meeting its responsibility to the standards by all journalists and their profession of electronic journalism, RTNDA employers. has created this code to identify important 2 Respond to public concerns. Investigate issues, to serve as a guide for its members, complaints and correct errors promptly to facilitate self-scrutiny, and to shape and with as much prominence as the future debate. original report. 3 Explain journalistic processes to the Adopted at RTNDA2000 in Minneapolis public, especially when practices spark September 14, 2000. questions or controversy. 4 Recognize that professional electronic journalists are duty-bound to conduct themselves ethically. 16 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  20. 20. GREAT IDEAS FOR YOUR CLASSROOM PART II: ETHICAL DECISION-MAKING AND NEWS JUDGMENT: CASE STUDIES By Bob Steele Editor’s Note: Four of the five cases presented in this section are accompanied by video selections. To view those selections, go to Part II of the DVD that accompanies this book Carolyn Terry, manager of RTNDF’s high school electronic journalism project, prepared the fifth case, “Shades of Grey.” It does not have a video component. To use “Shades of Grey” read aloud or duplicate the case summary for your students. Then ask the questions that follow. professional journalists encounter. Like the INTRODUCTION veterans, students must have the The Radio-Television News Directors competence and confidence to make good Association adopted its code of ethics (See ethical decisions that allow them to Pages 14-16) in 2000, after holding a produce high-quality journalism. series of conversations across the country with professional electronic journalists. Student reporters, photojournalists and Since its adoption, many professional producers will cover controversial stories electronic journalists have described the where facts are elusive and fairness can be code as the basic underpinning of their tough to achieve. Often they will deal with work, calling it an essential part of their uncooperative sources and differing day-to-day journalistic pursuits. opinions about the truth that make balanced storytelling challenging. And Student broadcast journalists face many of student journalists will report on complex the same ethical challenges that BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 17
  21. 21. issues that can test their ability to produce perceived—that can undermine their substantive and unbiased stories. credibility and the integrity of their reporting. Student journalists should not Whether it’s covering tension between the report about activities in which they are school’s administration and student groups personally involved and they must not or reporting on the struggles of a school’s show favoritism to friends. Issues of sports team, student journalists will deal with journalistic independence can be tough for human beings who are affected by the professionals to grasp and honor. These reporting. There are stories to be told about issues can be even more difficult for important issues such as school safety, race student journalists who live in a world of relations and sexual orientation. And there competing loyalties and evolving views of are stories to be reported when a tragedy authority figures, from parents to teachers strikes the school community. In all of these to administrators. situations and many more, student journalists will encounter vulnerable Teachers and advisers can help students individuals. Excellent and ethical journalism is develop the critical thinking skills needed a balancing act that requires professionalism to avoid many ethical problems and and compassion while still pursuing and stumbling blocks. Teachers also can provide producing newsworthy stories. sound ethical decision-making processes to address and resolve thorny issues the And student journalists, just like the pros, students can’t avoid. These processes will must avoid conflicts of interest—real and help aspiring journalists work their way DOING ETHICS: COMPETENCE AND CONFIDENCE • The best time to deal with an ethical issue is before • Good intentions are not enough when it comes to it becomes a problem. Anticipate the ethical ethics. You must have the capacity to carry out your challenges you might face before you are in a intentions. minefield. • Ethical decision-making is a competence—a skill you • Start your ethical decision-making process by can develop and improve. The better you are at it, defining the problem. Don’t try to “solve” the the greater your confidence in your ability to do the ethical challenge with a simple “What should I do?” right thing. question. • Ethical decision-making is about communication. • Don’t let your “gut” drive your decision-making. You must be able to make your point clearly and Listen to your gut, but don’t blindly trust it. Use your concisely and justify your thinking. head and your heart as well. • High-quality ethical decision-making does not deter • Always consider at least three alternative solutions to substantive, public-service journalism and aggressive an ethical question. investigative reporting. It supports it. • Make time for making good ethical decisions, even • Excellent journalism cannot exist without quality on deadline. ethical decision-making. • Avoid “doing” ethics alone. Collaboration produces better decisions. — Created for The Poynter Institute by Bob Steele 18 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  22. 22. carefully and successfully through ethical • Is a skill that can be learned, continually minefields. It’s a matter of building developed and regularly applied in very competence and confidence in ethics and practical ways in a wide range of ethical decision-making. situations. • Is a process for sound thinking and Student journalists (again, just like the justifiable behavior that is built on a set of pros) will benefit from guidelines that set guiding principles that serve as a moral standards for ethical behavior. RTNDF compass. offers a selection of these guidelines in the • Is less about rigid rules and more about Appendix (See Page 37). The guidelines reflection and reasoning. have been developed for professional • Is not so much about knowing the answers journalists and newsrooms, but also will be to every ethical challenge you will face, but helpful to student journalists as they knowing what questions to ask to help contemplate best ways to cover news in make good decisions and avoid problems their own communities. or resolve dilemmas. • Is most effective when it combines These guidelines and checklists are not personal responsibility with meaningful intended as rigid rules (that approach may collaboration. Each individual should be deter good reasoning and sound decision- held accountable for his or her behavior, making), but as benchmarks to guide but decisions ideally are made with practice and behavior. Additionally, it’s wise considerable input from a number of for teachers and advisers to develop clear individuals where contrarian notions are standards that will help their students valued and consensus is sought but not avoid the serious pitfalls of plagiarism and mandatory. fabrication. THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES A TOOL BAG FOR MAKING Journalism is not a profession in the same TOUGH CALLS sense as medicine or law where individuals have a prescribed course of study and then The approaches and case studies offered here seek and achieve a license to practice. are specifically geared to the practice of However, journalists can carry out their journalism, but the lessons taught and work based on certain accepted standards learned will be applicable for years to come, and practices that are the foundation of whether the students become journalists or professionalism. choose other careers. This professionalism is connected to the Professional journalists regularly refer to codes purposes and roles of journalism in a of ethics and other guidelines to help shape democratic society and the duty of their decisions, especially as they grapple with individual journalists. The professionalism is difficult choices in news coverage. Please see expressed in three guiding principles, RTNDA’s Code of Ethics and Professional developed by the faculty at The Poynter Conduct, Pages 14-16. The Code also is Institute and taught to thousands of included in “Broadcast in a Box” in wallet- journalists since 1990. sized format. It is available online at These guiding principles are just as applicable to student journalists as they are This process for making tough calls is based to professionals. The principles serve as a on the belief that sound ethical decision- moral compass, establishing ideals for making: practice and behavior. We know that BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 19
  23. 23. perfection is unattainable but professionals strive GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR for it nevertheless. JOURNALISTS In reality, the guiding principles often are in 1. Seek truth and report it as fully as possible. tension with each other. For instance, when • Inform yourself continuously so you in turn can reporters seek the truth on justifiably inform, engage and educate the public in a newsworthy stories they often deal with clear and compelling way on significant issues. individuals who are vulnerable to some harm. A • Be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, journalist who is reporting on a series of suicides reporting and interpreting accurate by students at area high schools likely will need information. to interview some family members of those • Give voice to the voiceless. students to ensure factual accuracy in the stories • Hold the powerful accountable. and to achieve fairness. Yet, those interviews are inherently intrusive and can cause some 2. Act independently. emotional harm to the grieving relatives. • Guard vigorously the essential stewardship role a free press plays in an open society. Similarly, there can be tension between the • Seek out and disseminate competing principle of truthseeking/truthtelling and the perspectives without being unduly influenced principle of independence. For example, in the by those who would use their power or story about suicides in the school district, the position counter to the public interest. reporter should acknowledge legitimate concerns • Remain free of associations and activities that raised by school administrators about the privacy of may compromise your integrity or damage your individuals, but the journalist should not be credibility. deterred by the authority the administrators might • Recognize that good ethical decisions require wield to stop certain essential reporting steps. Or, individual responsibility enriched by the reporter might be a friend of one of the collaborative efforts. students who committed suicide. In that case, it probably would be doubly difficult for the reporter 3. Minimize harm. to interview family members in a balanced (non- • Be compassionate for those affected by your emotional) fashion. actions. • Treat sources, subjects and colleagues as The reporter must balance his or her reasonable human beings deserving of respect, not merely quest for information with a high level of respect as means to your journalistic ends. and compassion for the vulnerable individuals, • Recognize that gathering and reporting choosing methods and timing for the interviews information may cause harm or discomfort, but in order to minimize harm. balance those negatives by choosing alternatives that maximize your goal of truthtelling. THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS: ASK GOOD — Created for The Poynter Institute QUESTIONS by Bob Steele Many journalists, rookies and veterans alike, These three guiding principles also were used in make a critical mistake when they encounter an “Doing Ethics in Journalism,” a handbook published ethical challenge. They start by asking, “What by the Society of Professional Journalists, by Jay should I do?” That question suggests there is an Black, Bob Steele and Ralph Barney. The same three easily arrived at answer. It assumes you know principles, along with a fourth principle—Be enough to make a good decision right away. accountable—subsequently were used by SPJ in That’s seldom the case. Even when a deadline is rewriting its code of ethics. imminent, there is always time—even if only a 20 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  24. 24. brief period—to assess what you know and more time to deal with the tragedy. Or determine what pieces of information you perhaps we will contact the family through may still need to know. an intermediary so we are less intrusive in our request. And when we interview the parents That’s why we advocate a list of 10 Good we will make sure we know enough about Questions to Ask when making ethical the effects of trauma to avoid certain types decisions that starts with “What do I of particularly harmful questions. know? What do I need to know?” There is an inherent and important Journalists can identify and choose from connection here between the ethical alternatives—and we should always decision-making process (designed to make consider at least three in every situation— a good choice leading to a justifiable action) to avoid the simplistic “do vs. don’t do” and the traditional reporting process trap in ethical decision-making. Having to journalists apply all the time. Reporters keep choose from among several alternatives searching for additional pieces of works in every possible tough call a information—facts, documents, points of journalist might face, from deciding when view, etc.—that can prove or disprove to use a graphic image in a story to certain assumptions and lead to better and deciding if a hidden camera is justified in more truthful stories. the reporting process to determining how a reporter can avoid a conflict of interest. Starting with the “What should I do?” question can lead to making a decision that All 10 questions on the list serve as key assumes there are only two possible choices steps in the decision-making process, a for action. Again, to use the student suicides process that is built on the guiding story as an example, one might ask, “Should principles. Some professional journalists I interview the suicide victim’s parents?” That repeatedly have used these questions to implies a “yes” or “no” choice. That’s very the point where they are intuitive and limiting. In reality, there can be other second nature—the questions kick in and alternatives. We might interview the parents are asked quickly and efficiently. Other tomorrow instead of tonight so they will have journalists literally post these 10 questions ASK GOOD QUESTIONS TO MAKE ETHICAL DECISIONS 1. What do I know? What do I need to know? 7. What if the roles were reversed? How would I feel if I were in the shoes of one of the stakeholders? 2. What is my journalistic purpose? 8. What are the possible consequences of my 3. What are my ethical concerns? actions? Short term? Long term? 4. What organizational policies and professional 9. What are my alternatives to maximize my guidelines should I consider? truthtelling responsibility and minimize harm? 5. How can I include other people, with different 10. Can I clearly and fully justify my thinking and my perspectives and diverse ideas, in the decision- decision? To my colleagues? To the stakeholders? making process? To the public? 6. Who are the stakeholders—those affected by my — Created for The Poynter Institute decision? What are their motivations? Which are by Bob Steele legitimate? BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 21
  25. 25. at their desks to serve as a visual reminder failing to hear differing views. Or they may of the process. be making decisions based on too much emotion and not enough reasoning. Just like any tool, the questions are most effective when they are used skillfully. That A good decision-making process involves requires practice. They should be used more than just using the gut. We must regularly and systematically. move to a second level: “rule obedience.” Here we examine what standards, guidelines and professional practices apply THE GUT IS GOOD, BUT IT to the particular ethical issue at hand. ISN’T ENOUGH What is our station’s policy on covering suicide, for instance? What guidance do Many veteran journalists talk about using experts in this field offer to journalists? the “gut” to make ethical decisions. They [Editor’s note: If students are faced with speak of that almost-real feeling in the covering suicide, there are many resources stomach that tells them what to do when to help. For example, the American facing a tough ethical call. Foundation for Suicide Prevention has recommendations for the media on how to In reality, the gut isn’t all it’s cracked up to report on this difficult subject: be. Yes, it can serve as a good trigger for our concern about an ethical issue. Our gut recommendations/5/index.html.] can tell us to “watch out” when we think we’re being manipulated by someone, Even as we ask these questions and others, perhaps a school official who is giving us it’s important to keep the decision-making only part of the truth. Our gut reaction can process going. Too often someone in the prompt us to keep asking questions to newsroom says, “Here’s what we should probe deeper and get more information. do because this is the ‘rule.’” That rule implies rigidity and finality and the But at times our gut reaction also can be decision-making stops. so strong and visceral that it keeps us from making good decisions. Too many If that happens, the process fails to get to journalists quickly back away from covering the third and important level: “reflection suicide because they don’t want to intrude and reasoning.” That’s where much of the on the privacy of individuals or fear they important work of ethical decision-making will feed the contagion/copycat syndrome. takes place. It’s where you test what you Both are legitimate concerns, but it’s know and what you may still need to possible (and experts on suicide support know; where you don’t just state your this) to find justifiable ways to cover the beliefs and lock into them, but seek and issue of suicide to minimize intrusion on listen to other views, including those that privacy and the likelihood of fueling are different and counterintuitive. copycat suicides. And reporting on this important issue may help others in the At the reflection and reasoning level you viewing or listening audience to recognize identify stakeholders—those who will be tell-tale signs that someone they know affected by your decision—and you weigh might be having suicidal thoughts. the consequences to these stakeholders. You also point to and consider multiple The key is to “Listen to your gut, but don’t alternatives—at least three—for a course blindly trust it.” At the gut-reaction level, of action. At this level it is important to journalists are trapped in that do vs. don’t justify your thinking and your resulting do syndrome of listing only two choices. action. You have to be able to explain not They may be talking and not listening, 22 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  26. 26. 3. Anchor the gut/rule/reflection approach (much as you would ask a music in specific case studies. Let students student or medical student to keep learn for themselves how their gut practicing a particular technique over reactions can be trap doors that keep and over.) them from making good decisions. 8. Don’t try to accomplish too much too 4. Teach the cases by working quickly. Even veteran professionals purposefully through the series of struggle with the idea of developing questions in a Socratic manner. Don’t sound ethical decision-making skills. give the answers, but ask probing This will be challenging for your questions to challenge students to students as well. Take the time to think for themselves. The questions sharpen their skills. Resist the that accompany each case are temptation to move from case study designed to force the students to test to case study too quickly. their assumptions and to recognize contrarian views from others. In some 9. Prepare carefully for each session. of the cases, we’ve added questions in Have a course of action in mind in brackets, after the initial question. terms of what learning points you These are designed to help you “peel want to emphasize. Know the cases the onion” and probe more deeply and what you want to emphasize in with students. the case and in the video. Plan your steps in terms of the questions you will 5. Use role-playing at times, asking ask. Think about how you can involve students to play the roles of various more students, limiting but not individuals. Some students might be shutting down the “talkers” so others journalists, others might be subjects of will take part in the discussion. the story or sources, viewers or listeners. 10. Model good ethical decision-making yourself. Resist the temptation to be 6. Occasionally ask students to spend a the one with the answers. Guide the few minutes writing responses to a students through your knowledge of particular question you pose as opposed the process and use of the principles. to starting discussion immediately. Then call on certain students to read what 11. Ask students to provide critiques of they wrote. This gives quieter students the learning process, not criticism of an opportunity to weigh in. It also others but observations on what they forces the “shoot from the hip” personally took away from working students to do some reflection before through cases and issues. they start spouting their thoughts. 12. At the very end of the class discussion, 7. Use the guidelines in the Appendix when all students have analyzed and (Privacy, Hidden Cameras, Sources, thoroughly discussed the case under Hostage-Taking Situations, etc.) as consideration, reproduce or read aloud tools in working through cases. the case summary (found following Require the students to be deliberate the questions for each). That way, in their decision-making, to keep students will learn how professional working rigorously on a specific point newsrooms grappled with the issues. or question from one of the guidelines 24 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  28. 28. RESPECTING PRIVACY When does the free flow of information that serves the Journalists should ask themselves some important public good outweigh the rights of individuals to personal questions as they balance this public need to know privacy? That is a balancing act journalists regularly face. with an individual’s right to privacy: Sometimes that question is applied to public officials who • What is my journalistic purpose in seeking this are accused of wrongdoing that involves their personal information? In reporting it? behavior. Sometimes the privacy issue involves celebrities • Does the public have a justifiable need to know? Or is who seek media attention and bask in the spotlight, only this matter just one where some want to know? to reject news coverage when it might tarnish their • How much protection does this person deserve? Is this image. And sometimes the privacy concerns apply to person a public official, public figure or celebrity? Is this average citizens who are suddenly caught in the news by person involved in the news event by choice or chance? virtue of a tragedy or their connection to an otherwise • What is the nature of harm I might cause by intruding newsworthy event. on someone’s privacy? • Can I cause considerable harm to someone just by The decisions individual journalists and news organizations asking questions, observing activity, or obtaining make on these matters can have profound consequences. information even if I never actually report the story? The challenge for journalists is to be professionally skilled • How can I better understand this person’s vulnerability and appropriately aggressive in seeking meaningful and desire for privacy? information that serves a legitimate public need to know, • Can I make a better decision by talking with this while being respectful and compassionate to those whose person? personal privacy may be intruded upon. • What alternative approaches can I take in my reporting and storytelling to minimize the harm of privacy invasion while still fulfilling my journalistic duty to inform the public? For instance, can I leave out some “private” matters while still accurately and fairly reporting the story? Or, can I focus more on a system failure issue rather than reporting intensely on one individual? — Created for The Poynter Institute by Bob Steele 38 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  29. 29. HIDDEN CAMERAS AND DECEPTION When might it be appropriate to use deception, • When the harm prevented by the information revealed misrepresentation or hidden cameras in newsgathering? through deception outweighs any harm caused by the act of deception. You must fulfill all these criteria to justify your • When the journalists involved have conducted a actions: meaningful, collaborative and deliberative decision- making process on the ethical and legal issues. • When the information obtained is of profound importance. It must be of vital public interest, such as Criteria that do not justify deception: revealing great “system failure” at the top levels, or it must prevent profound harm to individuals. • Winning a prize. • When all other alternatives for obtaining the same • Beating the competition. information have been exhausted. • Getting the story with less expense of time and • When the journalists involved are willing to disclose the resources. nature of the deception and the reason for it. • Doing it because “others already did it.” • When the individuals involved and their news • The subjects of the story are themselves unethical. organization apply excellence through outstanding craftsmanship as well as the commitment of time and — Created for The Poynter Institute funding needed to pursue the story fully. by Bob Steele BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 39
  30. 30. EVALUATING SOURCES • How does this source know what he or she knows? • What is my relationship with the source? Can I prove the source’s information through • Why am I using this source? Did I use this source government records or other documents? How can I because I am in a rush and this source often gives good confirm this information through further reporting or quotes and soundbites on deadline? How often do I or with other sources? others use this source (i.e., is the source overused)? • Does my source depend on underlying assumptions • Do I fear losing this source? Does that perception color that I should question? my judgment? Am I being manipulated by this source? • How representative is my source’s point of view? Who • Is there an independent person who has expertise on else knows what my source knows? the subject of this story and who can help me verify, • What is the past reliability and reputation of this interpret or challenge the information the source has source? given me? • What is the source’s motive for providing the information? What does this source have to gain or —Created for The Poynter Institute lose? Will this information make the source look better, by Bob Steele and Al Tompkins worse, guilty or innocent? 40 BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT
  31. 31. USING CONFIDENTIAL SOURCES Be especially careful in the use of confidential sources. • Does this source deserve the protection of his or her A reporter’s job should be, as much as possible, to identity? conduct interviews and seek information on the record. • What legal obligations do you incur by promising not to reveal this source’s name? If you are sued, are Fulfill all the following four criteria, then consider you willing to go to jail to protect this source? If you the other questions listed below. are sued, will the source come forward and be named? Is the reluctance justifiable? 1. A story that uses confidential sources should be of • How would viewers, listeners and readers evaluate overwhelming public concern. the same information if they knew the source’s name and motivations? 2. Before using an unnamed source, you must be • What have you done to help the source understand convinced there is no other way to get the essential the risks he or she is taking by giving you information on the record. information? • If you promised to protect a source’s identity, are you 3. The unnamed source must have verifiable knowledge using production techniques that will ensure the of the story. Even if the source cannot be named, the protection you promised? What if a lawyer information must be proven true. If you are unsure subpoenas the raw tapes? Would the person be the information is true, admit it to the public. identifiable in the tape outtakes? • You should understand your newsroom’s policy on 4. You should be willing to reveal to the public why confidentiality before you promise it to sources. By the source cannot be named and what, if any, policy, you may need the consent of an editor and promises the news organization made in order to you may have to reveal a source’s identity to a get the information. supervisor. You should inform your sources that you might have to identity them to others in your Consider these questions: newsroom. • What does the use of a confidential source mean to —Created for The Poynter Institute the factual accuracy and contextual authenticity of by Bob Steele your story? BROADCAST IN A BOX: HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM PROJECT 41