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Allowing sources to preview content
is ethically questionable QT12

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The newest reporter on staff chooses to cover the story about the Science Department’s new policy on studying animal life. To do so, she must interview the head about a new policy on studying animal life. It’s fairly controversial because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is strongly opposed to dissection and the new curriculum for advanced biology includes that.

What to do if sources, including the expert, want to see the story ahead of time?

Showing media content to sources is really just another form of prior review — but one with some hidden challenges. Sometimes the source can make it sound like its his or her understood right to review, and an untrained reporter might just agree. Also, the adult often believes the student might “get it wrong” and publish misinformation that could create problems. However, both students and sources should build trust in the reporting process by demonstrating integrity in their information-gathering and fact-checking processes.

 

Guideline:

Sources do not have the right to review materials prior to publication. Allowing sources to preview content at any stage of production raises serious ethical and journalistic practice questions.

Stance:

Showing media content to sources is a topic that may come up unexpectedly. Often a school administrator, teacher or other “adult of power” makes the request, and student reporters are unsure if they can — or should — refuse. This creates confusion and misunderstanding.

Students should not show content to sources because it is another form of prior review with ethical and journalistic challenges. They should be aware such requests are possible and know what to do if they happen.

Reasoning/suggestions:

Showing media content to sources is really just another form of prior review — but one with some hidden challenges. Sometimes the source can make it sound like its his or her understood right to review, and an untrained reporter might just agree. Also, the adult often believes the student might “get it wrong” and publish misinformation that could create problems. However, both students and sources should build trust in the reporting process by demonstrating integrity in their information-gathering and fact-checking processes.

Students may opt to verify quotes by reading them back to sources. If sources indicate quotes are inaccurate, students should check their notes and act accordingly. This should not include changing the original quotes because sources want to revise their statements.

Another unintended consequence of seeing the entire story: If sources see others’ quotes or information in the story, they have an opportunity to refute them before anything is published, giving one source an advantage over the other.

Resources:

Show and print,” American Journalism Review

Ethical Case Study: A lesson on the rules of prior approval of quotes, content
The Essentials of Sourcing, Reuters
Writing and Reporting the News, Carole Rich
Sharing Stories With Sources Before Publication Is Risky, But Can Improve Accuracy, Steve Buttry
Lesson: Crafting the Argument, Journalism Education Association
Lesson: A Lesson on the Rules of Prior Approval of Quotes, Content, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

 

 

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