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Good Deed or Self-Promotion?

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Good Deed or Self-Promotion?

Good Deed or Self-Promotion?
A local TV station in Midtown, Oregon was one of several media outlets who received an
invitation to cover a sting operation set up by city police. The recently formed Vice
Squad was planning to set up a sting in the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhood. Since
the formation of the Squad two years before, citizens and public officials had been asking
them to show some results. After all, the bond issue that financed the new force had been
a substantial addition to the city tax burden.
The Vice Squad set up video cameras attached to telephone poles surrounding a twoblock radius in the neighborhood. Their objective was have several plain-clothes
detectives posing as drug buyers and prostitutes interact with drug dealers and “johns”
(individuals soliciting prostitutes), catch them on camera, and subsequently arrest them.
Their offer to the local media included free distribution of the edited tapes from the sting
and open access to the members of the Vice Squad who participated, as well as the chief
of police who okayed the operation.
Channel 5 News, however, wanted more. Their news director asked if two of his
reporters (one male and one female) could pose as a drug buyer and a prostitute in order
to “lend authenticity” to their coverage. They promised to give full credit to the Vice
Squad for the footage and for their cooperation.
When the sting was completed, over a two-day period, 26 people had been charged with
crimes. Eight had been arrested outright, and the rest were issued summons to appear in
court. The two reporters had participated in six of the sting encounters.
The resulting Channel 5 report far outdid the other news outlets in town with its firsthand detail of the encounters and arrests, and its reporters became instant celebrities of
sorts. The local newspaper, however, questioned the wisdom of putting untrained
reporters into potential danger, even if they were supervised by the police. The head of
the Vice Squad had no comment except to say that the overall operation had been a big
The Channel 5 news director, responding to questions at a news conference, defended his
station’s actions by saying that it was all done in the interest of exposing a story that
needed to be told. When asked whether he understood that his reporters were, in fact, also
breaking the law by soliciting for prostitution and buying drugs, he replied that the police
had agreed not to press charges against them. They would also not have to appear in court
to testify against the six people they had “stung.” As a result, those six people were also
not charged.
Which journalistic guidelines for undercover reporting were potentially violated by
Channel 5’s actions, and in what way. You may use bullet points to answer. Make sure
you have done the readings.
Altering Photos for Aesthetics
Your newspaper publishes an annual progress edition insert in magazine style that gets a new title and cover
each year, though its contents are fairly similar year to year (history of the area, growth, features about
longtime residents, etc.). You’ve taken the cover photo for the coming edition, a shot of the freshly rebuilt
St. Mary’s Church, which had nearly burned to the ground a few years earlier in one of the worst fires in the
city’s history. Your photo is gorgeous — the white, clean lines of the church shone in a fading afternoon sun,
and flowering trees framed the composition.
However, in the photo, a power line that hangs over the street and cuts neatly through the top third of the
photo, ostensibly marring its beauty. Nevertheless, your editor wants that shot for the cover. He asks you to
use a photo software technique to “erase” the power line. His argument is that since the photo is not a photo
in the news section, the standards are different, and removing the power line does nothing to compromise
the integrity of the newspaper in this case.
1. Explain any ethical issues regarding running this photo without the power lines and which choice you
would make.
2. Where do you think the newspaper should draw the l

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