Code of Ethics in Journalism
I took Media and Ethics course at the University at Albany last year. One of the codes that I walked away with in this class was to keep the boundary between the subject. It was interesting to read the journalists who had to face the dilemma during their career and how dealt with it.
The author of “The Manful Life of Nicholas, 10,” Isabel Wilkerson spent seven weeks with Nicholas’ family as long as they allowed her at their place. During the reporting period, she started to build relationships with the family. She said sometimes asked herself if she would change the situation by taking the children out for dinner since they might not otherwise have eaten. Wilkerson said, “Journalist use food to buy time with sources constantly; these boys deserved no less. Perhaps they deserved much more, because they gave so much of themselves to help me create so intimate a portrait.”
Wilkerson also pointed out that a journalist should not forget they are a reporter not a trained social worker. If we do our job, the subjects who are going through a tough time would be able to get further assistance from the ones who know how to help.
The author of “Enrique’s Journey” Sonia Nazario did not help her main subject. She helped the one who was not the main character but she did not help Enrique who had been through theft, assault, hunger and thirst. If she did, she would’ve had to find another subject. During Enrique’s journey to the U.S. he had to beg money to make one phone call to his father in Honduras to find out his mother’s phone number in North Carolina. The whole time, Nazario had her cellphone in her pocket. Her story on Enrique won a Pulitzer Prize in feature writing, and you can check it out here.
Also, Anne Hull took similar action to Nazario’s. She was assigned to cover a county where more than 60 percent of the residents received government assistance. Within her three weeks visit, the baby of the family that she was covering had a fever. The family did not have gas money to drive to the hospital. Hull’s car was parked a few feet away from the house. The family expected Hull to offer a ride. While waiting for the family to make the decision, Hull had to deal with ethical dilemma. “Should I help them?” According to Hull, if the family had the assistance from an unexpected source like her, they won’t be able to see her as a journalist.