Deception/Hidden Cameras Checklist

When Might It Be Appropriate to Use
Deception/Misrepresentation/Hidden Cameras in Newsgathering?
(You Must Fulfill All of the Criteria to Justify Your Actions.)

  • When the information obtained is of profound importance.
    It must be of vital public interest, such as revealing great "system failure"
    at the top levels,or it must prevent profound harm to individuals.
  • When all other alternatives for obtaining the same information have
    been exhausted.
  • When the journalists involved are willing to disclose the nature
    of the deception and the reason for it.
  • When the individuals involved and their news organization apply
    excellence, through outstanding craftsmanship as well as the commitment of time
    and funding needed to pursue the story fully.
  • When the harm prevented by the information revealed through deception
    outweighs any harm caused by the act of deception.
  • When the journalists involved have conducted a meaningful, collaborative,
    and deliberative decisionmaking process on the ethical and legal issues.
Criteria That Do Not Justify Deception:

  • Winning a prize.
  • Beating the competition.
  • Getting the story with less expense of time and resources.
  • Doing it because "others already did it."
  • The subjects of the story are themselves unethical.
  • Bob Steele

    Bob Steele asks and answers lots of questions on a wide range of ethics, values, reporting and leadership issues. In his role as the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values he has taught hundreds of workshops and thousands of journalists and media leaders at Poynter seminars since 1989.


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