Ethics Questioned Of Undercover Journalists Testing School Security

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Should reporters walk into schools with hidden cameras, under the premise of testing security measures? In some cases, things can go disturbingly wrong, says the New York Times, citing the case of St. Louis’s KSDK causing a lockdown at Kirkwood High School when a reporter started roaming the halls. Critics say these kinds of undercover efforts don’t provide an accurate portrait of school safety, and question whether they serve any public good. Some journalists ask whether news organizations become too much a part of the story, and if it is dangerous for reporters to wander into schools when students and staff are on heightened alert.

“I think that for a news organization to just go on this type of random fishing expedition, there has to be a really good journalistic purpose,” said Bob Steele, a professor of journalism ethics at DePauw University. “There has to be some reason that you're doing that, that you are testing something in particular based on some sort of evidence other than just, 'school security is a problem in our country.' ” Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute said this approach missed the mark. “What happens is you're spending all this energy and time investigating school safety when that's already the single safest place for your child anyway,” he said, saying this “sort of reaffirms the false notion that my kids are really in danger at school when they're not.”

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