Guidelines for Hidden Cameras

 

When might it be appropriate to use deception/misrepresentation/hidden cameras in newsgathering?

 

You must fulfill all of the criteria to justify your actions:
 

  • When the information obtained is of profound importance. It must be of vital public interest, such as revealing great system failure at the top levels, or it must prevent profound harm to individuals.
  • When all other alternatives for obtaining the same information have been exhausted.
  • When the journalists involved are willing to disclose the nature of the deception and the reason for it.
  • When the individuals involved and their news organization apply excellence, through outstanding craftsmanship as well as the commitment of time and funding needed to pursue the story fully.
  • When the harm prevented by the information revealed through deception outweighs any harm caused by the act of deception.
  • When the journalists involved have conducted a meaningful, collaborative, and deliberative decision-making process on the ethical and legal issues.

 

Criteria that do not justify deception:
 

  • Winning a prize
  • Beating the competition
  • Getting the story with less expense of time and resources.
  • Doing it because others already did it.
  • The subjects of the story are themselves unethical.

 

From Doing Ethics in Journalism, The Society of Professional Journalists by Jay Black, Bob Steele and Ralph Barney.