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Panel Members React to Ethical Scenarios

Editorial Ethics Lyle Muller, Joan Kjaer and Connie Champion consider ethical dilemmas for journalists (left to right)

As a journalist, what if a mayoral candidate revealed some information to you “off the record” that could make or break a campaign?

During the “You Be the Editor” panel in Associate Professor Leo Eko's spring Legal Issues in Mass Communication class, students learned how professional journalists and non-journalists would handle these situations.

Dr. Jeffrey L.L. Stein (B.A. 1985, J.D. 1988) moderated the discussion on March 30. Stein not only moderated the discussion, he also developed the scenarios for the panel along with Eko.

Stein presented the panel with four scenarios, including the infamous “off the record” debate journalists face, and what ethical implications may come along with it.

Editor of The Gazette Lyle Muller feels that journalists decide what is on or off the record, not the source.

“My job is by definition to learn information and then tell it,” Muller said. “I once had a friend who was my source ask if he could tell me something off the record, and I asked, 'Is it something I'll want to report?' When he answered yes, I said 'Well, then don't go off the record.”

Hypothetical Thinking The panel listens to the moderator's comments about the ethical scenarios

Most of the panelists replied to the “off the record” scenario similarly, including KCRG-TV 9 reporter Mike Geary.

“I haven't had it happen often, but if someone stated something off the record I would never assure my source that I would not report the information,” Geary said. “Journalistic ethics similar to these scenarios play a role in my life every day as a reporter,” Geary said. “There are so many different types of reporting going on now with the Internet that we have to set ourselves apart in order to be trusted and for people to know we're reporting the facts, ” Geary said.

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