Real Estate Discrimination Investigation - Lyn Bixby, et. al. - Hartford Courant

The Hartford Courant's ombudsman takes issue with the newspaper's highly effective real estate discrimination investigation because of its use of deceptive tactics.

Media History

The reporting was intended for these media types: Newspaper

"Some Real Estate Agents Discriminate Against Black Home Buyers" - Lyn Bixby, et. al. - Hartford Courant


". . . reporters who tested 15 real estate agencies in the Hartford area for compliance with state and federal fair housing laws, which require equal treatment and opportunity in selling and renting housing. "The Courant found extensive evidence of discrimination, measured by differents in how the testers were treated, and racial steering . . . "

"White Lies: Bending the Truth to Expose Injustice" - Henry McNulty - Journalism Ethics Cases Online

Is it ever acceptable for journalists to use deception to gather facts? What if the resulting story uncovers a major social wrong?


"That "does-the-end-justify-the-means" dilemma confronted me this spring when my newspaper, The Hartford Courant, reported on racial bias among some area real estate firms. Reporters, appearing to be almost identical in every financial and personal detail except race, posed as potential home buyers to gather the evidence. In some cases, real estate agents gave the "testers" who were black tougher financial scrutiny. Other times, blacks were "steered" to towns that already have significant minority populations."

"Real Estate Probe Built on Deception" - Henry McNulty - Hartford Courant


"The Courant staffers who showed up at real-estate offices pretended to be potential home buyers, but they were not. They used altered names, and provided other false information that masked their identities as reporters. In short, they didn't tell the truth. "In this case, was that so very wrong? Doesn't the result justify the falsehoods? . . . I say the lying was unjustified. It's not easy, or pleasant, to find fault with what The Courant did. But even when the goals are noble, and the results are positive for the community, I don't think journalists should lie."