Hidden Cameras at the Crossroads of Journalism, Ethics and the Law

Media History

The reporting was intended for these media types: Radio

"Rush to Read" - Diane Sawyer - ABC News Prime Time Live


VII-"Hidden Cameras: Handle With Care" - Charlie Thompson - Radio Television Digital News Association


"I am not in love with hidden cameras. They can be very dangerous. They can be compared to rapid-firing, semiautomatic pistols adopted by most police forces in the past decade and replace the more reliable six-shot revolvers."

VIII-"Worth Thinking About" - Chris Heinbaugh - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .They are hidden cameras, and they have begun to make their way into newsrooms that once only dreamed of having such a tool. With this influx, hidden cameras are being used by many reporters and producers, some of whom have little understanding of power, nuance and impact of such a tool. . ."

IX-"Hidden Cameras: Is the Truth Worth the Lie?" - Stuart Watson - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .We focus so intently as journalists on the wrongs we're exposing and the greater truth we're telling that we take little time to contemplate the lies we're employing. We demand that cops follow the law, that public employees obey the rules and even that politicians behave ethically. But for some reason we balk when it comes to setting our own standards. . ."

X-"Hidden Cameras Answer Noble Call" - Duane Pohlman - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .Television strives for great video that can truly tell a story. Investigative stories are no different. Although all investigative reporters strive to uncover the truth, investigative reporters on television strive to SHOW it to their audience. In many cases, that means using hidden cameras. . ."

XI-"Lawyers, Journalists and Hidden Cameras" - Sandra S. Baron - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .Generally, it is not for us to decide the editorially appropriate use of hidden cameras or hidden microphones, which stories are newsworthy enough to justify such news gathering techniques, or when a given journalistic institution has overstepped and overused hidden cameras, risking the wrath or contempt of its community. . ."

"Statutes and Court Cases: Introduction" - Kathleen K. Olson - Radio Television Digital News Association


"The body of law that governs eavesdropping, recording, and the use of hidden cameras is complex. In addition to federal law, nearly every state has its own statute, each with case law that interprets the statue in slightly different ways.

I-"The Hidden Camera Conundrum: A Media Lawyer's Perspective" - Mark Sableman - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .But today we have few simple legal certainties in this area. Even when viewed solely from a legal standpoint, undercover reporting techniques raise many issues of balancing, judgment, discretion and prediction of the attitudes of judges, juries and public opinion. . ."

II-"Hidden Cameras: A News Executive's Perspective" - Mark Effron - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .I have come to question whether we really serve the public by limiting stories to those of 'profound importance,' with a 'vital public interest.' What's changed my mind has been a series of stories that, although not of profound importance, certainly are of great interest to many people. . ."

VI-"An Argument Against 'Toilet Journalism'" - Robert Lissit - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .They'e also planning on invading someone's privacy. The station's staff may wind up in court. Even if they don't, they will still jeopardize their credibility, drive away viewers and add to the already dwindling supply of television news credibility. In short, the story is a terrible idea. . ."

V-"High Standards for Hidden Cameras" - Bob Steele - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .Most hidden camera reporting involves some level of deception, which involves causing someone to believe what is not true. Since we are in the business of pursuing truth, there is more than a hint of hypocrisy when we use deceit to chase that goal. . ."

III-"Hidden Cameras and Other Inexact Sciences" - Allen Maraynes - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .In television, we have a slightly different challenge: that is, to clearly understand that we are neither the CIA nor the police. We don't have the authority of a crossing guard. No one elected us to do anything. Yet each day we try to make decisions regarding hidden cameras; the intent may not be to blow anyone up, ruin anyone's life or invade anyone's privacy. But we still want to find the 'bad guys.' That is our job and our responsibility."

IV-"A Message About Methods: Make No Mistake" - Bob Steele - Radio Television Digital News Association


". . .Journalists are more often being challenged, not just on the end product of their work but also on how they gather information. Increasingly, the objection is to the methods reporters and photographers use in quest of the 'truth.' . . ."

"Recruiting Fraud" - Byron Harris - IRE Journal


". . .The goal of a recruiter is to put young men and women in boot camp, or "butts on the bus" in the Navy vernacular. A WFAA-TV investigation found that recruiters supplied enlistees with hundreds of counterfeit high school diplomas and instructed them to lie about their academic background. At the time of our reports, the Armed Services wanted 95 percent of their enlistees to be high school graduates, because history shows high school grads have a better success rate in boot camp than those who don't complete high school. . ."

"Medical Welfare Rip-Off" - Joel Grover - The IRE Journal

California Clinics Use Homeless to File False Claims


". . .For months, I'd been getting tips at KCBS describing the same scam: Wealthy Los Angeles doctors were somehow recruiting busloads of homeless patients to come to their clinics. Once there, the homeless patients were asked to fake illnesses, and in return would get paid an illegal kickback. The doctors could then charge bogus treatments to "Medi-Cal," the state's welfare program that provides healthcare for the poor. Sure, it was a great story, but the tips always lacked key information, such as how these homeless patients were recruited, and who was behind this scam. But my producer, Jennifer Cobb, and I were determined to document this amazing scam on undercover tape, start to finish. . ."

"Detecting Consumer Fraud: Salvaged Autos" - Chris Halsne - IRE Journal

Consumers Duped Into Buying Dangerous Cars from Russian Mob


". . .I knew doing surveillance on Russian mobsters wasn't the safest idea in the world, but I couldn't bring myself to tell Karin Sumeri's parents. Karin was a young college graduate killed while riding in a used Volvo. The car uncharacteristically sheared apart during a routine accident. The vehicle was rebuilt - totaled by an insurance company several years earlier. Somebody had literally glued the roof back together. Accident investigators say Karin would have lived if the Volvo hadn't been shoddily repaired. . ."

"Imam Uproar" - Tom Merriman - IRE Journal

Imam's history hurts credibility on local scene


 "The instructions were simple: Catch a flight to a city on the east coast. Rent a car. Drive to a specific parking garage. Await instructions. The rules were uncompromising: No cameras. No taxis. No disclosure of my ultimate destination. The payoff was unbelievable: Complete access to hidden camera tapes, transcripts, and translations documenting the Islamic terror network in America."ire

"Rescued From Sex Slavery" - Rebecca Leung - CBS 48 Hours

"48 Hours Goes Undercover Into the International Sex Slave Trade"


"Big Hit" - Joel Grover - IRE Journal


". . .In some ways, our mechanic investigation was a classic local consumer expose. It uncovered wrongdoing at Jiffy Lube, the nation's largest lube and tune chain, which serves 30 million customers per year. Acting on a tip from an insider, we caught some L. A. Jiffy Lube locations charging customers for repairs that were never done. The story had good undercover tape, a revealing interview from an insider and a compelling confrontation with a top manager who lied on camera. . ."

"Rotting Meat, Security Documents, and Corporal Punishment" - Dave Savini - Nieman Reports

A local Chicago investigative reporter uses shoe-leather techniques and digital tools to uncover health and safety violations and be sure the news is widely spread


"On a hot summer day, a truck backs into a loading bay in Chicago’s popular Fulton Street meat market. The truck’s driver has no idea his every move is being captured on a small video camera. Thousands of pounds of pork, cases of yogurt, and crates filled with fruits and vegetables are loaded onto a truck that has no refrigeration. It’s an illegal load. Outside temperatures reach nearly 90 degrees. The yogurt can spoil in the heat. The pork (whole pigs) is dripping blood and other moisture onto peppers and tomatoes, which is a serious violation of public health codes and can lead to cross contamination."

"WHDH Takes and Undercover Look at Medical Marijuana Certifications" - Merrill Knox - TV Spy


". . .Massachusetts law permits doctors to give a marijuana certification to possess and grow a 60 day supply “after a full assessment” of the “patients medical history” they think the “benefits would outweigh the health risks,” according to WHDH. The producer went to three clinics with just the x-rays — which were of a yellow Labrador’s elbow — and no detailed medical records. She was able to obtain a certification at two of the three health clinics. . ."