I am often shocked how much people will tell me about their lives. Intimate details that some would question sharing with a best friend, but here they are telling me, a journalist.
I sometimes want to remind them of that and say, “you know I may publish what you just said,” but I restrain myself. My job is to get the juicy and interesting details to add to the facts of the story.
Because I have properly identified myself as a journalist, I tell myself that, it is okay to invade their privacy in fact they let me in. However, sometimes it just feels wrong. But legally, I haven’t done anything wrong.
That is what most journalist go back to–invasion of privacy law. Am I using a telephoto lens to snap a photo of someone in their fenced off backyard? No. Am I taking their personal telephone? No. But were do the issues of ethics come into play?
Unfortunately, that is subjective. There is no guide or compass that every journalist can follow. Most organizations focus on libel, and what you can and can’t get away, like the Dozen Tips to Avoid Being Burned by a Hot Story, published by the Student Press Law Center.
While avoiding criminal charges, is important, each of us has to decide what we are and are not okay with.