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What media knows and ethical and legal responsibility

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SF_Express, Nov 27, 2011.

  1. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I don't want to enter the ESPN-bashing fray (god knows they deserve the criticism sometimes), but the Post-Standard EE answered those questions much better in the other link posted.

    Also, I would strongly argue that the quality of a journalistic organization's work should not have any bearing on the answer to these philosophical questions about the role of journalists and the relationship between journalists and law enforcement.

    From the Syracuse EE:

    To turn this question around: If you DO think journalists have a moral obligation to hand over this tape to police, where should we draw the moral obligation line in the future? Should they or should they not hand over a tape that may be used as evidence in an assault-and-battery case? In a theft case? In an extortion case? Only in violent crimes? Only in crimes against minors? Only in potential stories they don't have enough evidence to publish?
  2. lcjjdnh

    lcjjdnh Well-Known Member

    The reason the quality of the journalism matters in the philosophical debate is because it's a utilitarian argument they're making. Perfectly valid to say we can't pass the information to police because we would lose the trust of readers and sources. By implicit in that belief is that you will do more good with the trust of readers and sources than you would by passing along this information. Even if you wanted to evaluate it under a rule--that is, we won't make our decision on the particular piece of information, but all potential pieces of information--you face the same problem.

    That said, perhaps there's an argument to be made that the value in this rule is that it benefits journalism organizations as a whole--that is, if ESPN reported this to the police, it would raise distrust in sources and readers with regard to ALL outlets more generally. And, as a whole, the argument would go, that outweighs any benefit to reporting this to the police. But that itself leads to questions about whether you could justify passing it along because the harm to journalism--although perhaps large in aggregate--gets dispersed over a bunch of organizations, whereas the harm from not reporting will be imposed on a very small group.

    (And all of that assumes you're accepting some sort of a utilitarian justification, which you might simply reject.)

    Your second question is, obviously, a very tough one. A good starting point would be to think about what a normal, non-journalist person would do and work from there.
  3. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Why would a non-journalist ever be in a situation where a potential crime victim comes to him/her for the expressed purpose of publicizing a story with a tape admitting culpability on the part of the accused and/or the accused's spouse?

    Nobody goes to, say, a dentist's office and offers somebody there possession of a tape like this. Unless you're a close confidant of the victim (relative, roommate, neighbor, priest, etc.), which is a far different scenario in terms of moral obligation, most "normal, non-journalist" people will never face this decision. It's apples and anvils.

    Also, the logical conclusion to the "quality of the journalism matters" argument is that at some point you would be making the case that ESPN has a moral obligation to turn over the tape but, say, the Post-Standard does not. Which makes no sense, morally or logically.
  4. Azrael

    Azrael Well-Known Member

  5. lcjjdnh

    lcjjdnh Well-Known Member

    Of course, they're different--that's the point. But at least by looking a scenario like a neighbor, let's say, we get an idea for what type of severity we're looking for, whether we're looking for crimes that occurred or is threatened, whether there is a public safety risk, etc.?

    I'm not sure this is absurd as you make it sound. Let's move away from journalism to doctors, for a second. Doctor A is a world-class trauma surgeon. Doctor B is a newly minted podiatrist. They come across people injured in a car accident. Could we "morally or logically" distinguish between them? Assuming we can let that factor enter into the moral calculus, why is it inappropriate to weigh it in this one? The only difference is in the doctor example the benefit comes now, whereas in the journalism one it comes later. If ESPN is arguing this will cost them in the future to do some morally good thing now (assuming handing over the tape is morally good), why wouldn't we ask them what exactly that cost will be in moral terms?
  6. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    So, as part of their "investigation", ESPN didn't speak to the police or the University:

    The University Chancellor wishes they had:

    Is this part true:

    I've not seen any account of ESPN trying to get the Fines to talk. Other reports say they specifically did not approach either of them.

    This is the dumbest -- most repeated -- claim:

    Yeah, it's not like ESPN has the ability to get her voice on tape. it's not like they own any audio recording equipment.

    If they needed her voice for a voice analysis, I'm pretty sure they could have gotten it if they really wanted to. Call her up and record it. Bobby Davis pulled it off. ESPN couldn't? Or stick a mike under her nose.

    Play the tape for her. She's not going to say anything?

    The Post-Standard has gone a lot further in detailing the steps they took to try and corroborate Davis' story.

    We know ESPN says they couldn't corroborate it. And, we know what they didn't do. What did they do?
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