Journalists need to take caution when going undercover.
When it comes to undercover journalism there is a lot of debate about whether it is ethical. It is important to know what is and what is not ethical and to see the different viewpoints and opinions on this topic.Greg Marx, author of the article “The Ethics of Undercover Journalism,” said that journalists need to be extremely cautious and careful when it comes to working undercover. Marx also made it clear journalists should go undercover only go when necessary.
Stephen Ward, who runs the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, made it clear that journalists need to consider the dangers before going undercover.
“Going undercover should be a very careful and deliberative process,” Ward writes. “You need to talk to editors, and your lawyers. And you have to consider whether there will be any harm done to people who are sources in the story.”
The Society of Professional Journalism’s Code of Ethics says specifically, “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.” Journalists who follow the Code of Ethics will have no problem understanding what is ethical and what is unethical.
When is it okay to go undercover?
Stephen Ward says for journalists to keep these questions in mind before going undercover:
- Does the story involve something of great public interest, or something very important?
- Can you get the story in any other way? Is going undercover the only option?
- If you go undercover will you be able to explain fully and honestly to the public what you did and why you did it?
Journalists who follow these rules will have no problem figuring out whether they are being ethical.