Browse Primary Sources

Subject is exactly ethics

The Public Interest and the Ethics of Undercover Reporting" - Kathy English - Toronto Star

Toronto Star  2017-09-15

"Lying to Tell the Truth: Journalists and the Social Context of Deception" - Seow Ting Lee - Mass Communication & Society

"Deception is an illusive and difficult issue. The inverse of deception is truthfulness, which is perhaps the closest to a universal value that we have. Deception is objectionable, but this moral outlook is complicated by the systematic nature of deception in human relationships, from little white lies in social intercourse to the far more capacious deception in international relations or warfare. . ."

Mass Communication and Society  2004-01-01

"Food Lyin' and Other Buttafuocos" - Sandra Davidson - IRE Journal

". . .If journalists continue to demonstrate the questionable ethics contained in the Food Lion case above, perphaps 'meat handling' should become a course in journalism schools' curricula. Treating subjects of stories as 'meat' or 'grist' for the journalism mill is unfortunately becoming a too common practice. This, of course, is not to say that all or majority  or even a large segment of journalists are behaving badly. But the taint from the few rubs off, and the odor is as foul as anything thr Food Lion reporters tried to uncover. . ." (IRE Journal's editors later apologized to ABC or the segment's producers for this piece. See "Apologies to ABC Producers" (  

IRE Journal  1998-11-01

"Critic's Notebook; Repercussions of Getting a Story by Sneaky Means" - Walter Goodman - New York Times

". . .This case puts reporters on notice that they had better stay away from undercover investigations, with or without cameras. Getting past company guards is not easy. If a reporter takes a job with the purpose of exposing practices a company would prefer to keep it to itself, must he now worry about being sued for breach of 'duty of loyalty' to the company he is out to expose? Does that apply, too, to whistle blowers, those real employees who tip off the reporter? Isn't the television program or the newspaper the reporter's true employer? Wouldn't it be a breach of duty of loyatly if he didn't do whatever he could to get the story? . . ."

The New York Times  Thursday, January 16, 1997

"Let's Get Ethical" - Joe Strupp - Editor and Publisher

". . .As they prepared the report for its May 10 publication, Spokesman-Review Editor Steve Smith and Managing Editor Gary Graham wanted to make sure they had covered all the bases, checked all the facts, and reviewed all of the potential ethics-related problems. Enter Bob Stecle, the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., whose advice on newsroom ethics has become nearly as sought-after as Dr. Phil's views on marriage. . ."

Editor and Publisher  2006-09-01

"Irresponsible Journalists are Jeopardizing Serious Investigations by the Press" - Christopher H. Pyle - The Chronicle of Higher Education

"In this century, there have been two great eras in American investigative journalism. The first, in the early 1900's, was led by muckraking journalists Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair. Tarbell's massive history in the Standard Oil Company helped break up that monopoly. Sinclair's 'The Jungle,' which exposed unsanitary conditions in the Chicago meat-packing industry, led to the Pure Food and Drug Act. . ."

The Chronicle of Higher Education  2000-01-07

"Journalism - 4 Cases: What Would You Do?" - Christopher Scanlan - St. Petersburg Times

"Is it proper for reporters to pretend to be what they are not to get a story - posing as bar owners for instance, to expose graft and corruption involving city officials? . . . "

St. Petersburg Times  1987-06-08

"The Ethics of Undercover Journalism" - Columbia Journalism Review - Greg Marx

". . . And while O’Keefe has acknowledged that, “on reflection, I could have used a different approach to this investigation,” he also told Hannity he was operating in an established tradition: “We used the same tactics that investigative journalists have been using. In all the videos I do, I pose as something I’m not to try to get to the bottom of the truth.” During the interview, he and Hannity name-checked a few specific predecessors, among them PrimeTime Live’s Food Lion investigation, 60 Minutes, 20/20, and Dateline NBC, including its “To Catch a Predator” series. . . ."

Columbia Journalism Review  2010-02-04

"London Letter" - William L. Alden - The New York Times

"Miss Elizabeth Banks's 'Autobiography of a Newspaper Girl' has given rise to a discussion as to the ethics of reporting. Miss Banks came into notice here a few years ago by writing a series of articles describing her experiences as a domestic servant. As the gist of these experiences consisted in revelations as to the manners and customs of the people with whom she found situations, the articles were not adapted to awaken much enthusiasm. . ."

The New York Times  1902-10-18

"Deception in Medical and Behavioral Research: Is It Ever Acceptable?" - Dave Wendler - The Milbank Quarterly

". . .For this reason, and in spite of the widespread unanimity regarding the importance of subject autonomy, the question remains, is subject deception in research ever ethically acceptable. . .?"

The Milbank Quarterly  1996-01-01

"Undercover Journalism and Credibility" - James Walker - PressEthic Blog

". . .Firstly there is the ethical conundrum of whether the ends justifies the means. If a journalist uncovers information that needs to be brought to the attention of the public, does that therefore justify the clandestine methods used to obtain that information? The concern is that the deceit on the part of the journalist sullies the critical information that is uncovered. Does a journalist dampen his credibility through the use of lies and chicanery? . . ."

PressEthic Blog  2005-10-02

"Beyond the Muckrakers" - Edmund B. Lambeth - IRE Journal

". . .The process of ethical judgement is an act of valuing, and valuing occurs at several levels. It can be argued for example, that actively deceiving might permit greater proximity to the facts, placing a reporter closer to the truth than would second-hand, derivative methods. . ."

IRE Journal  1988-07-01

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

"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."

Indiana University  1989-08-01

"PRESS RELEASE: SPJ demands FBI discipline agents for posing as journalists" - Society of Professional Journalists

INDIANAPOLIS - The Society of Professional Journalists is asking FBI Director Louis Freeh today to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action against agents in Idaho who posed as reporters. “Morally and legally what the FBI did was just plain wrong,” wrote Kyle Elyse Niederpruem, president of the nation’s largest journalism organization and an assistant city editor at The Indianapolis Star. The agents were “uncovered” by real journalists covering the civil trial of Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler. According to news accounts, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger admitted he initially directed seven agents to obtain media passes so they could blend in better with photographers covering the trial. The credentials apparently were yanked after area reporters complained to the sheriff.

Society of Professional Journalists  2000-09-01