Detachment or involvement Case Study

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I will expect you to think critically about First Amendment rights as you develop this essay. Four cases
will be presented after these instructions. You are to write your essay on only one of the cases. In your
essay, address the questions posed following the scenario, but make it all flow as though those questions
are thoughts you have and know that they must be considered in arriving at a solution to your journalistic
dilemma. Do not list the questions within your essay and then answer them individually. You must fully
justify the path you choose. In other words, whether you choose a solution that is provided to you within
the case scenario or another one you have come up with on your own, you must explain completely why
you have made this choice. Refer to at least two previously decided cases (precedents) as partial support
for your decision. Remember: The First Amendment is NOT a precedent. Do not start off writing the
scenario as it appears in this assignment simply to add words to your essay. You may begin by briefly
explaining the dilemma you are facing. Your paper must be submitted to Turn-It-In by Tuesday,
October 17 by 11:00 p.m. to receive full credit. Do your own work. I have caught many students
plagiarizing the work of previous students, and it did not end well for them. Turn-It-In has all
papers submitted for this assignment for the past five years in its repository.

Specifications: Use this list as your checklist before you submit through Turn-It-In!

____ 650–900 words (This is a firm minimum and maximum number of words—not one word
fewer nor one word more.)
____ 12-pt. Times New Roman, double spaced
____ 1-inch margins on all four sides of page

____ Contact info and name in header on every page
____ Indent paragraphs 1⁄2 inch with NO extra spacing between paragraphs
____ Include page numbers

Case 2

Detachment or involvement?


You are a reporter for a large urban daily. The paper plans a major series on poverty. Your editor assigns
you to do an in-depth piece on the effects of poverty on children, with special emphasis on what happens
when drug addiction becomes part of the story.

You have identified several families willing to be subjects for the story. Three families agree to be
photographed — and identified — and you spend four months with them, visiting their homes every day
and observing what goes on. You tell them your job is to be an observer — a “fly on the wall” — so you
can gather information for this important series.

In one home, you watch as a mother allows her three-year-old daughter to go hungry for 24 hours. You
see this same child living in a filthy room, stepping on broken glass and sleeping on a urine-soaked
mattress. You know the mother is HIV-positive and you watch as she brushes her daughter’s teeth with
the same toothbrush she uses. You see the mother hit the child with full force. You see the little girl about
to bite on an electrical cord. Her plight haunts you.

What do you do to satisfy both your conscience and your responsibilities as a reporter?

  1. Report the mother to the authorities so the girl will be removed from this environment
    and placed in a foster home. Then write the story.
  2. Write the story first, detailing your observations. After the story has been published,
    notify the authorities, giving the mother’s address.
  3. Write the story, but don’t identify the mother or child to police or social service
    authorities. Remember, you are a reporter. You’ve put the information in the newspaper.
    It’s not your job to act as a police officer.
  4. Your own solution to the dilemma.


Case 3

To what lengths should you go to get a story?


You are a correspondent for a major television network. Your producers have done a great deal
of research about a national grocery chain; they allege that some of its grocery stores are asking
employees to participate in unsanitary food-handling practices.

This is an important story. Consumers may get sick if they eat tainted food, you argue, and they
have a right to know that a food store is not handling its food in a safe manner. You want to
make sure this story airs on national television. You believe that to get good footage you have to
go into the store with cameras and film the store’s workers actually engaging in unsafe practices.
You need proof.

As the television correspondent, how will you get your story?

  1. Call the store manager and request an on-site interview, with cameras. Explain that you
    have some information that consumers will want to know about and give the store a
    chance to show its side of the story.
  2. Just appear at the store one day, without advance notice to the manager. That way you
    won’t tip off the staff that you’re onto a story.
  3. Pretend to be looking for a job in the store; complete an employment application and
    actually get hired. Then, while you’re at work, use hidden cameras to document the
    unsafe practices you see.

D. Your own solution to the dilemma. Be specific.

Case 4

Will a negative story be allowed to run in a high school newspaper?


As a high school journalist, you have developed several sources of information about the football
camp held each year at your school. You hear that brutal hazing is part of athletes’ initiation to
the team. Investigating further, you learn that new players are subject to various humiliations and
assaults, sometimes with broomsticks, electrical cords and socks stuffed with tennis balls.

This is a big, important story. Kids are being hurt. You work hard to get your facts right and
spend a great deal of effort checking and double-checking your sources. Your newspaper’s
adviser supports you and your work. But when you are ready to publish the story in the school
newspaper, the principal says you can’t run it unless you make substantial changes. You must
eliminate a player’s comments and add a prepared statement from the football coach. The coach
also says this is “negative journalism” and wants you to hold the story until after the playoffs.


What do you do?

  1. Drop the story. You know you’ve done a good job, but if the principal won’t let you run
    the story as you have prepared it, you won’t run it at all.
  2. Wait until after the playoffs, as the coach requests, and then print the story according to
    the principal’s requirements: Drop the player’s comments and run the football coach’s
    statement. At least some of the information you have uncovered will come out.
  3. Print the story as your principal demands, by dropping the player’s comments and
    running the football coach’s statement. But add an editor’s note at the end of the story,
    explaining that school officials, including the coach, reviewed the story and insisted that
    changes be made to it before it was published.
  4. Your own solution to the dilemma. Be specific.

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