Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How Far Would You Go to Get a Story?

BARRY LEVINE, A TEMPLE grad, executive editor of the National Enquirer and friend of J1111, recently recounted to New York magazine his fondest memories of life in tabloid journalism:

When his helicopter was blasted with shotgun pellets over Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith’s wedding; when Mike Tyson dragged him into a hotel stairwell and threatened to kill him after Levine asked if he was gay; when his news team was “attacked” by a swarm of tarantulas after sneaking onto Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch; when he had two reporters cross a meadow wearing a sheep costume to get inside Michael J. Fox’s nuptials; when he sent ten operatives into a hospital dressed as doctors and nurses with clipboards rigged with tiny cameras to snap the first pictures of Lisa Marie Presley’s baby.

Would you wear a sheep costume to sneak into a wedding just to get a story? Would you pose as a doctor to get pictures otherwise unavailable? Is there anything wrong with that?

The National Enquirer, which unabashedly pays for information, broke the story of presidential candidate John Edwards' affair (with a woman who gave birth to his child) and was considered for a Pulitzer Prize for that investigation.

How far should journalists go to get a story?

5 comments:

HAK said...

There is no guide for journalists to consult when deciding how far is too far to go for a story. No two situations are the same and, therefore, are impossible to judge by the same set of textbook rules, but that does no mean that all integrity and moral conscience should be ignored. While privacy should not be overlooked, public figures do willingly enter into a much less private lifestyle, making many of their actions fair game for reporting. The significance of a story can be weighed by asking two questions: Will someone be hurt if I publish this story? and Will someone be hurt if I don't write this? If the answer to the latter is yes, I believe that journalists may take measures to bend the rules in order to benefit the public.

M. Mendez said...

A Pulitzer Prize? Really?! Haha, well that changes my view on things a bit...

Ruth K. said...

I think that it depends on the sort of information being gathered. I personally would not sneak into someone's personal space to capture information which might potentially be embarrassing to that person, especially if I would consider that person an innocent. I think a good journalist would not cross certain boundaries (moral boundaries, or what have you).

Paki said...

I remember mentioning in class ho journalists love to criticize the National Enquirer for buying information, but think it's ok to pay millions of dollars for the rights to the first pictures of a celebrity's baby. What's the difference? Whether or not you pay for good news is besides the point, the underlying principle is the same. These magazines pay for these pictures because they will sell copies. The National Enquirer paid someone who had a tip on John Edwards because it would sell copies.
Who's the better journalist, the one who is above paying for information and doesn't get the story or the one who does anything to get the story? Is the first obligation of journalism not to the citizens?

Elizabeth Van Son said...

I think the way that the National Enquirer obtains their information isn't in the best taste but I feel like the general rule for journalists everywhere is what will make a good story. So the fact that the reporters from Levine's magazine goes through so much shows dedication but it seems like it's almost to the point of stalking. I understand that it's necessary to get important stories but I feel like there is a line between far enough and too far and the Enquirer is always dangling in between it.