How much information should you report?
Present the following
scenario to the class:
You are a
reporter for a local newspaper. You come back to the office one
day to find several staff members discussing this story:
teenagers have been killed in an automobile accident. The driver,
who survived, had been drinking prior to the accident. The two girls
in the back seat, both of whom were killed, were nude at the time
of the accident.
colleague, another reporter, is pushing for all the known facts
to be reported. But the editor argues that the fact of the girls’
nudity should not be revealed; he claims that such information will
just be an additional insult to their parents, who already are suffering
from the girls’ deaths.
Ask: Do you have
a right to publish:
fact that the driver was drinking?
fact that the girls were nude at the time of the accident?
the First Amendment protects the right to publish this information.)
it be responsible to publish these facts in reporting the accident?
Ask students to
brainstorm about things to consider in deciding whether to report
Students may come up with ideas such as these:
we have all the facts? Has anyone interviewed the survivor?
there evidence of sexual assault?
the newspaper have a policy on printing names of sexual-assault
publishing the information help anyone else?
a class poll:
many would publish the fact of the driver’s intoxication?
many would publish the fact of the girls’ nudity, based on the
students to explain or defend their decisions.
Now update the initial
information with “breaking news”:
Additional information has emerged about the circumstances of
the two girls killed in the car accident. Earlier in the evening,
the two high school girls worked on the school’s homecoming float.
When they left the school premises and went to a nearby restaurant
for dinner, their car was carjacked in the restaurant’s parking
lot. The thieves drove the two girls to a remote location, took
their clothing and left them to fend for themselves.
terrified girls flagged down a passing car. Although he had been
drinking earlier in the evening, the driver offered to take them
to the police. While they were en route to the police station,
an animal darted out in front of the car. In an effort to avoid
hitting it, the driver swerved, lost control of the car, and hit
a tree, killing the two girls in the back seat.
does this change the story? If you had known all this information
at the time you made the decision to publish, would you have decided
differently? If you uncovered this information after you published
the initial story, how would you report the follow-up information?
the ethics of reporting all the facts, based on the new information.
with permission from Jean Otto, founder of the First Amendment Congress.
This hypothetical was first published in the First Amendment