Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Grade It Yourself: Would You Have Aced? Would You Have Passed?

American Journalism Ethics Midterm

October 29, 2007

Place these in the context of our discussion of journalism ethics. Keep it brief.

1. Seditious libel (3 points)

2. Ben Franklin (3 points)

3. Master narrative (3 points)

4. Prior restraint (3 points)

5. The telegraph and objectivity (3 points)

6. List three of the four sources for the typical American journalist’s “ideology” that Altschull presents in our textbook (3 points)

7. List four of the five characteristics of objectivity according to the scholar David Mindich (4 points)

8. Hobbes and Locke on Contract Theory (6 points)

9. John Peter Zenger and Cato (6 points)

10. “Trolley problems” and “double effect,” that is, the difference between foreseen and intended effects (6 points)

Short essay question (20 points)

Talk about the ethical implications of the following things during interviewing:

* manipulating body language;

*laughing at jokes;

* using the “some people say” or the “my editor insisted I ask this” technique as a preface for a question that you want to ask;

* handling what you learn during exit questions/exit comments (those exchanges that take place when you have put up your notebook or tape recorder and are literally walking out of the interview)

Long essay question (40 points)

Use the system of the Potter’s Box to analyze the following ethical dilemma.

Your answer will consist of two parts: a Potter’s Box diagram with key words placed in its quadrants and an essay elaborating on that diagram. As part of that analysis, consider the dilemma in terms of each of the five ethical approaches Potter uses as part of his framework. If you have another ethical context that supplements or goes beyond the Potter Five, feel free to add it. Tell me which of those approaches – if any – seem most useful in your attempt to resolve this dilemma.

The problem: A reporter with a big-city newspaper is assigned a story on the newly emerged leader of a local white supremacist group. The leader is a powerful and charismatic public speaker who seems to be an effective spokesman for the group’s ideology: that all those who are not of “pure Aryan blood” are inferior. The group singles out Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Muslims for contempt. The group is also anti-homosexual. The group does not advocate violence against anyone but does urge: “racial” separation; laws allowing schools to segregate by race; laws against intermarriage of the races; laws protecting the right of businesses to refuse to hire homosexuals and of school districts to remove homosexual teachers from the classroom; stringent restrictions on immigration by “the mongrel races.”

The group seems to have an active membership of only a few hundred.

The reporter receives an anonymous tip that the leader of the group is actually Jewish. By working carefully and patiently through public records, the reporter tracks down the leader’s family. The tip is accurate. The leader is Jewish and, in fact, participated in his own Bar Mitzvah before abandoning his faith and his culture. It is clear that the members of the group do not know of their leader’s background. The reporter confronts the leader, who – when the scope of the reporter’s research becomes clear – concedes that the reporter has it right. First, the leader threatens the reporter but soon he is begging the reporter not to publish the information, suggesting that he will kill himself if he is exposed. It is perhaps worth noting that the reporter, who is Caucasian, is what one might term an “out” Christian; that is, in the newsroom he freely, even aggressively, shares his religious faith with his co-workers, inviting them to his church and attempting to involve them in personal conversations about their own faith or lack of it.

The question is: How should the reporter proceed? The reporter is confident that if he presents the story to his editor, it will be published and that, if he protests after having presented the story to the editor, his protests will be ignored. He is, in effect, the gatekeeper on this story

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