Browse Primary Sources
"Veritas had previously punk'd lefty activist groups and non-journalistic employees at NPR. But in its attempted sting of the Washington Post, Veritas went directly at the paper's reporters with a female operative selling a fictitious story that she had been impregnated by Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore as a teenager. The Post's reporters saw through her flimsy deceptions, counter-stinging her and Veritas with a bundle of fine reporting and thus proving the opposite of the organization's hypothesis: the Post had no overwhelming bias against Moore, and it exercised skepticism and thoroughness in reporting an allegation brought to its attention. While outrageous, the depth of Veritas' undercover deception is not unprecedented, even in contemporary journalistic circles. In 2007, investigative journalist Ken Silverstein went undercover for Harper's magazine as a business executive who intended to hire lobbyists to skirt the law in helping him reform Turkmenistan's poor international image. In 1992, ABC News producers told Food Lion a passel of lies to secure jobs at the supermarket so they could film a story about the chain's substandard health practices. In 1963, Gloria Steinem submitted a fake name and Social Security number to get a job as a Playboy bunner for expose in Show magazine. . . .
"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
". . .In December, a North Carolina jury decided that two ''Prime Time Live'' producers went too far in 1992 when they lied on applications and obtained jobs in the back rooms of Food Lion supermarkets. The resulting program hurt Food Lion's bottom line, and ABC News was hit with $5.5 million in punitive damages. The consequences of the decision, which ABC is appealing, will assuredly be felt in future television exposes or the lack of them. . ."
The New York Times 1997-03-09
". . .Other ways - truthful, ethical - exist besides hidden camera footage to nab wrongdoers. Classic investigative reporting relies on public documents, skilled interviewing, exhaustive research and cross-checking. Why should electronic journalists exempt themselves from the rules of fairness? . . ."
The Washington Post 1992-12-22
". . .The judge in the case said something every journalist should remember: The First Amendment is not a license to trespass, to steal, or intrude by electronic means into the precincts of another's home of office. It does not become such a license simply because the person subjected to the intrusion is reasonably suspected of committing a crime. . ."
IRE Journal 1999-03-01
"Media Talk; Journalists Defending the 'How' In Their Work" - Felicity Barringer - The New York Times
"Who? What? When? Where? Why? These are the questions journalists are trained to ask. But the question that continues to haunt journalists who are hauled into court is ''How?'' How did the journalist get the information? How did he or she approach sources? What did the journalist say to the subjects of the story? . . ."
The New York Times 1998-07-13
"Should journalists lie, as they pursue the noble goal of informing the public? Put more charitably, if the word "lying" is too harsh, should journalists masquerade as meat packers in a supermarket to get a story, engage in a bit of clever misrepresentation and bluffing to trick a source, use "lipstick" cameras hidden in wigs and tiny microphones pinned to brassieres to succeed in undercover reporting, produce (in the words of one NPR reporters) "cockamamie cover stories" to protect an exclusive? In other words, in an industry theoretically still devoted to truth-telling, can deception, in whatever guise, be regarded as an acceptable way of getting the news? . . ."
The Washington Post 1997-03-24
"Is deception by a journalist ever justifiable? That was the question raised by ABC's solemn attempt at self-justification last Wednesday night. ''Primetime Live'' and a special 90-minute panel debate moderated by Ted Koppel focused on Food Lion v. ABC, the case in which a North Carolina jury awarded the Food Lion supermarket chain $5.5 million in punitive damages because ''Primetime Live'' producers lied to get jobs at the supermarkets to show bad food handling practices. . ."
The New York Times 1997-02-17
". . .Their concern is the story behind the Hart story, which led Monday evening's network newscasts on ABC, NBC and CBS. Some leading journalists criticized The Herald for using what they considered unethical tactics to get the story, and then rushing it into print Sunday before it was adequately checked out. . ."
Miami Herald 1987-05-05
"Did the end justify the means here? Did this exposé of the profound neglect Brazao witnessed meet the public interest test? I have no doubt this was the right course of action. This investigation met all of the thresholds journalism ethicists have laid down for undercover reporting: The information is vital to the public interest (particularly given the demographics of an aging population and a severe shortage of nursing home beds); there was no other way to get this story and know the conditions inside the home, and the nature of the deception was fully disclosed to readers. . ."
Toronto Star 2010-10-09
"Being a journalist means not having to admit someone else got there first. Unlike academics, reporters can largely ignore their predecessors’ contributions to a given story — naming an occasional colleague or competitor if we’re feeling generous, dropping in 'reportedly' now and again, or maybe just giving no credit at all. This probably improves readability, especially in lengthier, more complex stories. It also lets journalists deceive the public — and themselves — with a flattering illusion of self-reliance."
The Boston Phoenix 2007-03-14
"Excessive pride, I believe, is the fundamental problem. The desire to be first with the news still permeates the newsroom at The Times and other newspapers in a way that makes editors and reporters feel defeated when they have to conclude that the information in another publication’s exclusive article is so newsworthy that it has to be pursued. I can testify from my own time in a newsroom that keeping the needs of readers first in such situations can be difficult."
The New York Times 2007-03-11