Ethics and Journalism E-120

I had the chance to sit in an Ethics and Journalism session at Harvard Extension. Actually, the class just happened to take place around me -- while I just sat. I have never taken a real writing class before so I was really intrigued with the presenter, material, and the students. Everyone was engaged and participated. Just about everything I'm not used to seeing in a Computer Science class. *Sigh*

I believe the speaker was Allan R. Ryan and he had the splitting image of Anthony Hopkins. I could probably listen to him all day as he had such a commanding and majestic (is that odd?) voice. On this particular day, they were talking about an article by Nicolas Kristof at the New York Times. The article, Media's Balancing Act, discusses when is it appropriate to publish a story without concrete evidence. Topics included a case with a priest with molestation allegations and a new lead in the Jon Bonnet Ramsey case. The response by the class was fascinating and I wish I was part of it.

Some of the statements overheard were:

  • Get the facts right before you run with a story!
  • What if the suspect presents "emotional blackmail," where you will feel responsible for the harm that may come from the story.
  • Do you take the risk of publishing a non-story if it will prevent harm to others?