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Transparency and Truth

by on October 31, 2016

The articles and videos from this week bring up a lot of important points about privacy as it relates to journalism.

After writing the response paper about To Catch a Predator and reading the article Unamed sources: essential or overused, it raised the question, does leaving sources with no identity in a piece, yield for more truthful information?

This came to mind as To Catch a Predator is practically a drama, with cameras, cathartic interviews and a host.  The sources in this television series are also clearly identified and documented on camera.  I am wondering if, because of this, predators are more likely to lie to the camera in order to appear like less villainous.  This also goes for the victims, or in this case the journalists posing as minors, possibly acting more helpless in the situation to amplify it for viewers.  This fact that of the audience knowing practically all of the information transparently, likely compromises the stories accuracy.

The article Unamed sources: essential or overused, however, brings up a valid point that “sometimes the only way to get a story is to promise confidentiality.”  So, while Perverted Justice may be getting a story, it is questionable how much of it is actually true.  This aspect of confidentiality, gives sources the freedom to say and do what they want without the aspect of judgement from a huge crowd. I personally feel like this gives room for more accuracy.

When talking about privacy, I also think its important to consider whether or not revealing an identity of someone is crucial to the story.  In cases like rape, as an article on MassLive, Commentary: What’s in a name? Lots if you’re a reporter, states “when all has been said and done, we protected the victim’s identity, giving [them] one fewer cross to bear as she deals with her trauma.”  This makes sense to me as the story is about the event that happened, not a profile on the victim, rapist.  It becomes harder when deciding whether or not to reveal the person who committed such crime or a similar crime. Revealing them, as To Catch a Predator aims to do, would serve the public so they know who committed the incident.  However, revealing them also highlights their name, something the assaulter may have wanted.  Revealing their name also may be premature. Letting the public know the story, is dangerous as more might unfold in the story proving or disproving something nasty that was just written about someone.  In cases like these, “the alleged” or “the prosecutor” I think are more suited.

Overall, dealing with stories like these there are clear ethical questions raised.  Ultimately, I think it is up to the journalist to decide what is appropriate in the context of their case.





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