Roughed Up At Recess
From RTNDF: Newsroom Ethics (Fourth Edition)
After receiving several viewer complaints about kids beating up kids on school playgrounds, station officials at WITI–TV in Milwaukee,Wisconsin decided to investigate. A reporter was sent out with a home video camera to sit in his car and watch kids at several playgrounds. He witnessed and videotaped many instances of children roughhousing and even beating each other up. In 37 of 52 schools the station visited over a few weeks, reporters recorded kids beating up kids.
The station aired its findings in a special sweeps story called “Roughed Up at Recess”. When the story aired, dozens of livid viewers called demanding to know why the television station had not done more to intervene. But the reporter had tried to intervene on several occasions, by putting down his camera and moving toward the violence. But, every time he moves toward the kids, they would stop fighting and run away. But the station did not disclose this to the viewers when they ran the story. The reporter also called the school district’s safety director who notified the principal and they responded right away. After the story aired, some parents responded with their own stories about their children being bullied in school. The station launched a large-scale project to learn more about bullying in schools. It included surveying 13,000 students and teachers in the viewing area and conducting interviews with students teachers and psychologists. This story raises an important question about the circumstances under which a journalist should interfere with the story that he or she is covering.
After viewing the video in its entirety, use your decision memo guide to set up the problem, offer a solution, identify the dilemma, weight the alternatives and cite an ethical rationale in justifying your decision.