Sat. March 7 - A city is experiencing an upswing in crimes committed by young male African Americans. Should a journalist be worried that telling these crime stories day after day may lead citizens to falsely stereotype all young African Americans as criminals?
Right before an election, one candidate accuses the other of having an illegitimate child. Should a journalist report the allegation if there isn't time to evaluate whether it's true before people vote?
A journalist discovers that the CIA has committed illegal activities. Should the story be reported if it might reveal how the CIA is operating to lower the risk of terrorist attacks in the U.S.?
Journalists wrestle with judgments like these hypothetical situations all of the time, but they too seldom engage anyone outside the newsroom in their deliberations. They almost never do before a decision is made, and rarely after the fact, unless the decision causes so much anger in the community that some explanation is unavoidable.
join the discussion
A free public forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, at the Missouri History Museum will give citizens and journalists a chance to talk to each other about ethical questions like these. You're invited to join the conversation, which I will moderate.
I hope the discussion will illuminate a dynamic tension among the ethical values at the heart of professional journalism. I also hope it will explore how citizens would have journalists wrestle with that tension.