Ginny Whitehouse on Newsgathering and Privacy

In her article “Newsgathering and Privacy: Expanding Ethics Codes to Reflect Change in the Digital Media Age,” Ginny Whitehouse outlines the journalistic ethics as they pertain to social media and online presence in reporting. She lists a few guiding questions that reporters should ask themselves before using the Internet to find information for their stories such as:

  • Can you justify your actions to your own conscious, to your colleagues, to the whole world of reasonable people?
  • Does the information involve such great public peril that the harm done by journalists failing to engage in deception outweighs the harm the deception will bring to individuals, the profession, and the public trust?
  • Is the information gained by reporting from social networking pages worth more than the harm done to the profession and the private pain that pulling information from those pages might bring?

Concerning blogs and reporting on public individuals in private places (like a women’s bathroom or potentially a classroom), the important guiding question to consider is:

Does the value of information gained outweigh the harm done to the individual’s sense of privacy, the public understanding of privacy, and to the profession as a whole?

She underlines the importance of distinguishing between the public place and the private place, as well as the public vs. the private individual; by judging if the information shared with the public would be worth the potential harm it might cause a private person, the reporter holds themselves accountable to responsible journalism instead of sensational or gimmick journalism.

These articles explore blogging journalism and what it means to be ethically responsible with information on the Internet:

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