When it comes to undercover journalism it seems that the lines of ethical and unethical start to blur. It is important to research different views and opinions of undercover journalism and why it is or is not ethical.
View from a journalist:
In Greg Marx’s article, “The Ethics of Undercover Journalism,” found in the Columbia Journalism Review, Marx wrote,
“Undercover reporting can be a powerful tool, but it’s one to be used cautiously: against only the most important targets, and even then only when accompanied by solid traditional reporting.”
- Marx does not argue that it is unethical, but he stressed the importance of using undercover work with caution and only when necessary.
View from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ):
Code of Ethics: Journalists should avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story.
- SPJ is direct with saying no undercover work unless all other sources have been exhausted in the pursuit of information. By following these guidelines journalists stay clear of the blurry lines between ethical and unethical.
Author Gina Welch explains the ethical challenges she faced while going undercover:
For more related stories on undercover journalism visit Ends vs. Means: Ethics of Undercover Journalism.
Additional guidelines to follow as a undercover journalist:
Journalists often look to Poynter’s check list for guidance on the issues of undercover journalism and hidden cameras.