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The Student Who Lied Her Way Into the Devlin Interview

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 21, Jan 23, 2007.

  1. Twoback

    Twoback Active Member

    She has no responsibility to the prison bureacracy, other than that which will keep her own butt out of jail.
    But to the story subject, there is no choice but to be honest. To lie about the nature of the work you're doing with the person you're interviewing is the same level of offense as plagiarism. Period.
  2. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Carved in the lintel above the entrance to the Weekly World News.
  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    It doesn't make 'sense' to you that she would sell him on a local college paper instead of a major New York tabloid??
  4. Maybe this question can't be answered by anyone but the reporter, but did she think about trying to get the interview as a reporter for the Post? Did she think her chances of him telling her something would have been better if she represented the college paper?

    I can't really tell if she misrepresented herself, or intended to do the interview for the college paper and ended up selling it to the Post. Either way, the prisoner didn't exactly open up to her about getting the good stuff, so we're not talking about a bombshell here.

    I think she's going to have a lot of explaining to do to a future employer. Gumption is a good thing to have in this profession, but so are ethics. If she was, indeed, working for the college paper and sold the story to the Post, then she needed to somehow let the prisoner know that.
  5. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I agree with twoback. I have no problem with doing what you need to do to be through bureaucracy, especially if they were determined to keep out all reporters.

    If they will work with you, go by the book. If they won't, go around them.

    But you can't misrepresent yourself to the subject.
  6. dog428

    dog428 Active Member

    Yes, it doesn't make sense to me that she would go out of her way not to tell a pizza parlor worker who has spent his entire life around St. Louis that she works for the New York Post. (And honestly, you think this guy knows the Post is a tabloid?) To a guy like that, once you've stated that you're a reporter, the publication makes little difference. Everyone with a notebook and a tape recorder wants the same thing from him. If this were some media-savvy CEO, I could see the need to do it. But not this guy.

    And again, we don't know what actually happened. We're basing the entire discussion on the word of this alleged kidnapper, which seems more than a little unfair to the reporter.
  7. Oggiedoggie

    Oggiedoggie Well-Known Member

    She should have waited until the prison's equivalent of the SID arranged for an interview or handed her a quote sheet and been happy with that.

    Dang students, they just don't know how the system is supposed to work. Now, I'm going to have to get off my butt and do a follow-up.
  8. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    How do we feel about impersonating a police officer to gain access to a crime scene or taking an accounting job at a corporation with the intent of getting inside to write a book that details a company's questionable practices?

    Yesterday I felt pretty comfortable saying I had no problem with her misrepresentation to gain access to Devlin. Today, after discussing the topic with Mrs. Cranberry (a former news side columnist), I'm not so sure.

    How can it be OK to set out in search of the truth by telling a lie?
  9. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    When you can't get at the truth in any other way than telling a lie, it is ethically sound to tell the lie. I used the example earlier of Nelly Bly in the 1880s feigning insanity to get commited, so she could expose the horrors of the state-run insane asylum. Without deceit, she would have never gotten the story and the public wouldn't have gotten a vitally important story. This country has a long history of that kind of muckraking journalism, and the stories are predicated on deceit. You can't always walk in through the front door and announce your intentions. Those are the easy stories to get. When you are dealing with people who have reason to sabotage your efforts at getting to an honest story, you sometimes have no other option than to use deceit.
  10. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Yes, like Charlie LeDuff's undercover piece in a slaughterhouse as part of the NYT's Pulitzer-winning series on race. Like you, I am torn on this.
  11. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Impersonating a police officer is a crime. Acting and looking like you belong and carrying yourself in such a way that people don't question you is smart.
  12. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    I'm guessing the prison security folks have rules against misidentifying yourself for the purpose of meeting an inmate, too.
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