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 (precedent) 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.
Specifications: Use this list as your checklist before you submit:
____ 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 ½ inch with NO extra spacing between paragraphs
____ Include page numbers
The cases follow:
How much information should you report?
THE SCENARIO:You are a reporter for a local newspaper. You come back to the office one day to find several staff members discussing this story:
Two teenagers have been killed in an automobile accident. The driver, who survived, had been drinking prior to the accident. The two girls in the back seat, both of whom were killed, were nude at the time of the accident.
Your colleague, another reporter, is pushing for all the known facts to be reported. But the editor argues that the fact of the girls’ nudity should not be revealed; he claims that such information will just be an additional insult to their parents, who already are suffering from the girls’ deaths.
Ask: Do you have a right to publish:
The fact that the driver was drinking?
The fact that the girls were nude at the time of the accident?
Would it be responsible to publish these facts in reporting the accident?
Brainstorm ALONE about things to consider in deciding whether to report this information:
Do we have all the facts? Has anyone interviewed the survivor?
Does the newspaper have a policy on printing names of sexual-assault victims?
Will publishing the information help anyone else?
Detachment or involvement?
THE SCENARIO: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?
A. 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.
B. Write the story first, detailing your observations. After the story has been published, notify the authorities, giving the mother’s address.
C. 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. Your own solution to the dilemma.