‘Investigative’ journalism

The tactics that James O’Keefe has employed in order to further his story are not that uncommon, especially within the United Kingdom. They are journalists but they are journalists who have a blatant disregard for the ethical codes that they are meant to follow. However, in some cases, these can be the most effective method to highlight the seriousness of a story. The prime example would be the documentary ‘The Secret Policeman’, which aired in the UK in 2003. In this the journalist, Mark Daly, went through his training steps and was eventually initiated into the Greater Manchester Police Force. His goal was to highlight the excessive amounts of racism that were apparent within the British police. Using the same methods as O’Keefe, a hidden camera, he was able to expose many police officers misusing their authority in a racist fashion against Asian members of the community. Daly’s work was a success as it resulted in the resignation of 10 officers. But more importantly it gave viewers the bigger picture and as a result of his work a major inquiry into racism in the police force was launched. I think in cases such as these, where there is a serious issue to be dealt with, the kind of tactics adopted are essential and there could be a certain degree of lee-way when it comes to the ethical codes.

However there are those who abuse these ethics for purely entertaining purposes, or even just to invent a story. Again I will highlight a case in the UK. A reporter for the newspaper ‘The News of the World’ disguised himself as a Middle Eastern sheikh who wanted to buy Chelsea football club. Using a hidden camera he interviewed the then England national team manager Sven Goran Eriksson. In the interview Eriksson claimed he would be willing to leave his job to join Chelsea as manager. When the story was printed in the newspaper there was outrage in the sports world. There was no story here until the journalist, now known as the Fake Sheikh, invented it by deceiving his subject. There is no excuse for using these ‘investigative’ methods for such a purpose. I am unsure whether I would ever employ these tactics myself. If my story hinged on it and it would provide the public with a greater insight then I would strongly consider it.


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