Undercover Journalism Debated
Undercover journalism has been the subject of heated discussions, especially since the late 1970s, and whenever an undercover sting causes a stir.
- Mark Sableman
- Mark Effron
- Allen Maraynes
- Bob Steele
- Robert Lissit
- Charlie Thompson
- Chris Heinbaugh
- Stuart Watson
- Duane Pohlman
- Sandra S. Baron
- Kathleen K. Olson
- Ken Silverstein
- Edward Wasserman
- Michael Miner
- David Shaw
- John J. Goldman
- Bill Moyers
- Clayton Kirkpatrick
- Gene Patterson
- Deirdre Carmody
- Henry McNulty
- Marcel Dufresne
- Clarence Page
- Brooke Gladstone
- William Gaines
- Howard Kurtz
- Susan Paterno
- James Ettema
- Charles Burke
- Charles Scheim
- Edmund B. Lambeth
- Rosemary Armao
- Dale Spencer
- Abi Wright
- Myra McPherson
- Lisa Gulya
- Lauren Sandler
- Robert Miraldi
- Marc Gunther
- James Walker
- Charles P. Smith
- Machelle Lanae Bush
- Margaret Elaine Regus
- Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky
- John H. Fuson
- Greg Marx
- The Editors
- Curtis Brainard
- Joel Meares
- Russ Baker
- Matthew Felling
- Steve Robinson
- William A. Henry III
- Lori Robertson
- Deborah Potter
- Mark Lisheron
- Douglas McCollam
- James Rainey
- Neal Conan
- Ashley Csanady
- Christopher Scanlan
- Christopher H. Pyle
- Brett Noble
- Jay Rosen
- Carol Doherty
- Ginger Thompson
- Sandra Ochoa
- Andrew Alexander
- Jeff Strickler
- Chris Halsne
- Duncan Lamont
- Brooke Kroeger
- Stephen Brook
- Monica Bhogal
- Jason Beaubien
- Steve Inskeep
- Mannika Chopra
- Walter Goodman
- Marvin Kalb
- Sandra Davidson
- Colman McCarthy
- Jonathan Watts
- Aaron Swartz
- Margaret Sullivan
- Roy Greenslade
- Christopher Davis
- Mark Thompson
- David Boratav
- Phillip Knightley
The reporting was intended for these media types: Magazine, Newspaper, Radio, Television, Internet
Articles, Books, Video/Film
"Exposure of Corruption Raises Questions About Reporters’ Masquerade" - Deirdre Carmody - New York TimesFebruary 23, 1978
Writer examines the questions raised by the major impact of the Mirage tavern series of the Chicago Sun-Times.
"Prizefights: Donnybrook" - Myra McPherson - Washington Post | The Rites of Spring and the Cries of FoulApril 20, 1979
McPherson recaps the controversy during the Pulitzer Prize deliberations over the Chicago Sun-Times' Mirage tavern ...
Discussion of the brouhaha at the 1979 Pulitzer Prize deliberations over the methods used in the Chicago Sun-Times' ...
"Should Reporters Play Roles?" - Clayton Kirkpatrick & Gene Patterson - ASNE Bulletin | Responses of two members of the Pulitzer BoardSeptember 1, 1979
Clayton Kirkpatrick, then president of the Chicago Tribune, says yes and Gene Patterson, then president and editor ...
An article exploring whether or not deception (i.e. lying about one's identity) is an ethical practice for a ...
Report on a reader poll taken by the Sun-Times in the aftermath of its 1978 Mirage tavern expose showing strong ...
"How (Un)Acceptable Is Research Involving Deception?" - Charles P. Smith - IRB: Ethics and Human ResearchOctober 1, 1981
The controversial use of deception in journalism is questioned by Charles P. Smith.
In Margaret Elaine Regus' dissertation for California State University, she discusses the issue of deception in news ...
Article on 1982 Pulitzer Prize winners contains (in last add) reporting on the Pulitzer jury and board deliberations ...
"Journalism Under Fire" - William A. Henry III - Time Magazine | A growing perception of arrogance threatens American pressDecember 12, 1983
Although journalism was disrespected and mistrusted by the public, it still plays a crucial role in being a common ...
A television producer went undercover in a hospital as a patient and ended up in court for doing so.
Scanlan poses four journalistic scenarios that involve ethical conundrums.
"Beyond the Muckrakers" - Edmund B. Lambeth - IRE Journal | "In Search of an Ethic for Investigative Reporting"July 1, 1988
Edmund B. Lambeth discusses the need for having ethic when investigative reporting.
Charles Burke writes about a study concerning undercover techniques and the use of hidden cameras.
The Hartford Courant's ombudsman takes issue with the newspaper's highly effective real estate discrimination ...
James Ettema writes about what makes investigative reporting successful.
"White Lies: Bending the Truth to Expose Injustice" - Henry McNulty - Journalism Ethics Cases Online | Is it ever acceptable for journalists to use deception to gather facts? What if the resulting story uncovers a major social wrong?August 1, 1989
Henry McNulty investigates the article written about racial bias in real estate areas surrounding Hartford, ...
"An Analysis of the Ethics of an Unconventional Method of Reporting in the American Press" - Machelle Lanae Bush - DissertationDecember 5, 1989
At Regent University, Machelle Lanae Bush studies the consensus of American journalists on the use of undercover ...
"An Awakening: Murrow and the Migrants" - Dale Wright Interview from Robert Miraldi's "Muckraking and Objectivity"January 1, 1990
Robert Miraldi's interview with Dale Wright about his 1961 undercover series on migrant workers for the New York ...
Marcel Dufresne discusses Newsday's undercover documentation of racial discrimination in Long Island's real estate ...
Colman McCarthy discusses journalists' deceptive methods of reporting.
PrimeTime Live's use of hidden cameras is discussed.
"Out of Sight" - Robert Lissit - American Journalism Review | Producers are unsung, unknown - and essential to the success of television news-magazinesDecember 1, 1994
Robert Lissit goes in depth about the importance of having talented producers to complete a successful hidden camera ...
"Gotcha!" - Robert Lissit - AJR | "Prime-Time Live" popularized the use of hidden cameras and local stations rely on them for dramatic, high-impact footage. Their prevalence has provoked debate over how and whether they should be used – and lawsuits.April 1, 1995
Robert Lissit examines many different stories involving hidden cameras used in news media.
Rosemary Armao goes into detail about the Food Lion exposé and how it reveals a truth people do not want to know.
"Critic's Notebook; Repercussions of Getting a Story by Sneaky Means" - Walter Goodman - New York TimesJanuary 16, 1997
The negative ramifications of using the method of undercover reporting are discussed. The Food Lion exposé is being ...
A Clarence Page column bemoaning the possible fate of undercover reporting in light of Food Lion and other scandals.
"In Greensboro: Damning Undercover Tactics as 'Fraud'" - Russ Baker - Columbia Journalism Review | Can Reporters Lie About Who They Are? The Food Lion Jury Says No.March 1, 1997
Russ Baker goes in depth about the controversial Food Lion exposé.
"The Lion's Share" - Marc Gunther - American Journalism Review | Rather than attacking courts for unfavorable outcomes like the one in the Food Lion case, journalists should face up to their own shortcomings and be more careful in their reporting.March 1, 1997
Marc Gunther argues that there is a limit of what media can and can not do, using ABC's Food Lion story as the main ...
"The Lying Game" - Susan Paterno - AJR | "Debate over lying to get a story has intensified in the wake of the Food Lion case. Defenders say deception sometimes is critical in reporting important stories. But a mounting chorus of criticism decries the practice as overdone, bad for journalism's credibility - and just plain wrong."May 1, 1997
A critique of undercover reporting, using the Tony Horwitz "9 to Nowhere" series of 1994 in the Wall Street Journal ...
VII-"Hidden Cameras: Handle With Care" - Charlie Thompson - Radio Television Digital News AssociationJanuary 1, 1998
Charlie Thompson goes inside his views on the use of hidden cameras.
Chris Heinbaugh reveals his thoughts before, during and after a story using hidden cameras.
IX-"Hidden Cameras: Is the Truth Worth the Lie?" - Stuart Watson - Radio Television Digital News AssociationJanuary 1, 1998
Stuart Watson questions the credibility of using hidden cameras to get a story.
Duane Pohlman shares his stories of using hidden cameras.
XI-"Lawyers, Journalists and Hidden Cameras" - Sandra S. Baron - Radio Television Digital News AssociationJanuary 1, 1998
The use of hidden cameras can result in a high probability for litigation and consequences with the law, and Sandra ...
"Statutes and Court Cases: Introduction" - Kathleen K. Olson - Radio Television Digital News AssociationJanuary 1, 1998
Kathleen K. Olson highlights certain court cases that concern the complexity of undercover reporting and the use of ...
I-"The Hidden Camera Conundrum: A Media Lawyer's Perspective" - Mark Sableman - Radio Television Digital News AssociationJanuary 1, 1998
Legal review between reporter Sandra Woodstein and her station's outside media counsel, Dudly Kibosh.
II-"Hidden Cameras: A News Executive's Perspective" - Mark Effron - Radio Television Digital News AssociationJanuary 1, 1998
Mark Effron defends the use of hidden cameras, claiming they are valuable tools when journalists use them properly.
VI-"An Argument Against 'Toilet Journalism'" - Robert Lissit - Radio Television Digital News AssociationJanuary 1, 1998
Robert Lissit explains when a hidden camera story conflicts with the right of privacy.
The use of hidden cameras in journalism is a fine art that needs to be perfected in order for it to be successful.
III-"Hidden Cameras and Other Inexact Sciences" - Allen Maraynes - Radio Television Digital News AssociationJanuary 1, 1998
Allen Maraynes explains why hidden cameras are not always necessary in getting a good story.
IV-"A Message About Methods: Make No Mistake" - Bob Steele - Radio Television Digital News AssociationJanuary 1, 1998
Former television reporter and executive producer explains how "truth" is no longer a journalists strongest defense.
"Prying, Spying, and Lying: Intrusive Newsgathering and What the Law Should Do About It" - Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky - Tulane Law ReviewNovember 1, 1998
Individual privacy is being threatened by the media's use of presumptuous newsgathering techniques, writes Lyrissa ...
"Trash Tort or Trash TV?: Food Lion, Inc. V. ABC, Inc., and Tort Liability of the Media for Newsgathering" - Charles C. Scheim - St. John's Law ReviewDecember 1, 1998
Charles Scheim explains the amount of scrutiny the media receives due to an intrusive form of journalism.
Sandra Davidson discusses the significance of numerous investigative reporting cases.
IRE Journal staff apologizes to ABC about an article that was published in their magazine written by Sandra Davidson.
John H. Fuson explains the public's perception on "journalism."
"Irresponsible Journalists are Jeopardizing Serious Investigations by the Press" - Christopher H. Pyle - The Chronicle of Higher EducationJanuary 7, 2000
Pyle believes that the negative methods being used in journalism are ruining the press.
"When Undercover Was King" - Michael Miner - Chicago Reader | More Bleeding at the Sun-TimesAugust 9, 2001
Miner compares in-depth newspaper investigations at the Chicago Tribune presented with and without a strong ...
Lauren Sandler expresses how undercover stories should be written by the professionals in the field themselves, ...
Miner opines on Jack Fuller's book, News Values, and, among other things journalistic, the Chicago Sun-Times' Mirage ...
Abi Wright discusses the risks journalists face while trying to get a story.
"'But I'm One of the Good Guys!'" - Monica Bhogal - The Guardian (UK) | When Reporters Go Undercover, it is Often They Who End Up in Trouble with the Police Instead of the People They are trying to Expose.August 24, 2003
Undercover reporting is a high risk job; Monica Bhogal tells why.
“By a Back Door to the U.S.: A Migrant’s Grim Sea Voyage; Dangerous Passage: From Ecuador by Sea” - Ginger Thompson and Sandra Ochoa - New York TimesJune 13, 2004
Reporters investigate the illegal smuggling of people from Ecuador to the United States.
"Media Law: Keep Your Distance: There Is Often a Fine Line Between Reporting Crimes and Encouraging Criminals" - Duncan Lamont - The Guardian (UK) | Duncan Lamont Explains How to Stay on the Right Side of the LawSeptember 20, 2004
Duncan Lamont gives tips on how to avoid trouble with the law while reporting.
"Reckless Acts" - Chris Halsne - The IRE Journal | Public officials flouting law by driving drunk, speeding in vehicles paid for with tax money.November 1, 2004
Investigative report on public officials.
Edward Wasserman responds to the use of subterfuge in uncovering a Spokane mayor's illicit relationships with young men.
In India, reporters use undercover journalism to its full potential.
Ed Wasserman describes the changes happening within the art of investigative reporting by giving a few examples.
"The Public Isn't Buying Press Credibility" - Carol Doherty - Nieman Reports | The seeds of public distrust were sown long before the recent round of scandals.June 1, 2005
The article reviews years of surveys of press credibility over a number of years and the reasons for diminishing ...
James Walker questions the credibility of undercover journalism.
Steve Inskeep interviews Jason Beaubien about why reporting in Zimbabwe is nearly impossible.
"The Shame Game" - Douglas McCollam - Columbia Journalism Review | “To Catch a Predator” is propping up NBC’s Dateline, but at what cost?January 1, 2007
A criticism of the hidden costs of the popular NBC Dateline series, To Catch A Predator
Q&A with the Washington Post reporters Anne Hull and Dana Priest, who wrote the Pulitzer-Prize-winning series on the ...
Talk of the Nation examines the ethics of To Catch A Predator, including the payment of sources and decoys, and the ...
The Press Complaints Commission explains why they are in favor of the controversial phenomenon of undercover reporting.
Around the Ken Silverstein sting on a high-level Washington lobbying firm in 2007, Bill Moyers interviewed the ...
An interview with Ken Silverstein about his exposé of D.C. lobbyists.
Kurtz takes issue on ethical grounds with Ken Silverstein's sting on Washington lobbyists bidding on a contract to ...
A criticism of Silverstein's Harper's piece on lobbyists in DC.
"Undercover, Under Fire" - Ken Silverstein - Los Angeles Times | The Washington press corps is too busy cozying up to the people it covers to get at the truth.June 30, 2007
Ken Silverstein explains and defends his reasons for going undercover for his Harper's piece on the excesses of ...
Bob Steele, Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values, responds to Ken Silverstein's defense of using deception ...
Wasserman's column defending Ken Silverstein's undercover reporting on D.C. lobbyists.
Over the line: the questionable tactics of "To Catch a Predator" - Deborah Potter - American Journalism ReviewAugust 1, 2007
In the aftermath of the suicide of a man caught in the "Predator" trap, this piece questions the ethics of the ...
William Gaines discusses his experiences as an undercover reporter for the Chicago Tribune.
Turkmenistan Reaction: "Lying to Get The Truth" - Mark Lisheron - AJR | A powerful article in Harper’s about lobbying in Washington reignites a long-standing debate over the ethics of undercover journalism.October 1, 2007
A response to the controversy surrounding Ken Silverstein's Harper's article on lobbyists in DC.
Howard Kurtz explains how The Mercury News reinvented themselves by using undercover reporting.
A new North Korean magazine will strictly use undercover journalism to get their stories.
Mannika Chopra discusses the use of undercover reporting in India.
"Is Undercover Over?" - Aaron Swartz - FAIR | Disguise Seen as Deceit by Timid JournalistsMarch 1, 2008
In the aftermath of Ken Silverstein's Turkmenistan sting for Harper's, Swartz examines the reluctance of many media ...
"Ethics Apply to Indie Media, Too" - Brett Noble - Daily Bruin | While Independent Reporters Bring News to Many, Their Methods Must Maintain IntegrityMarch 10, 2008
Brett Noble writes about the corruption in investigative reporting.
Lisa Gulya deciphers how different journalists feel about undercover journalism.
Jay Rosen discusses the reactions after "Obama: No Surprise that Hard Pressed Pennsylvanians Turn Bitter" was ...
Both the 2008 and 2013 versions of this segment on WNYC's "On the Media." "Should reporters lie or misrepresent ...
"The Ethics of Undercover Journalism" - Columbia Journalism Review - Greg Marx | Why Journalists Get Squeamish over James O'Keefe's TacticsFebruary 4, 2010
Greg Marx examines the tactics of right-wing activist James O'Keefe and why they antagonize many journalists.
"Did a Post Photographer Cross a Line to Get a Picture of John Hinckley?" - Andrew Alexander, Ombudsman - Washington PostMay 2, 2010
Ombudsman for the Washington Posts asks if a Post photographer crossed the line in entering a mental institution to ...
"A cheap way to deliver quick results as newspapers slug it out in hard times" - Phillip Knightley - The IndependentMay 24, 2010
The ethics of undercover reporting are questioned when the Duchess of York bribes a businessman for cash.
An undercover reporter opens up about what it's like being undercover and not being able to reveal his identity.
"Outing Case: Cries of 'Hypocrite' for Pastor, Magazine" – Jeff Strickler - Minneapolis Star-TribuneJune 23, 2010
Article reporting the outcry against Lavendar magazine for outing the minister of a north Minneapolis Lutheran church.
"To Investigate and Advocate" - Michael Miner - Chicago Reader | The Better Government Association was in on some of the most exciting investigative reporting of yore. But director Andy Shaw says just exposing wrongdoing is no longer enough.July 15, 2010
Miner bemoans the loss to Chicago journalism of the great undercover exposes of earlier years.
"Undercover Reporting: The Myth of Ethical Deception" - Ashley Csanady - The Elements of "PIRC" WIki | Exploring the Qualms with Undercover Reporting. Can Lies Reveal Truth?"December 24, 2010
A young Canadian reporter's essay with links to a number of journal articles on the subject of undercover reporting ...
"Stingers From Our Past" - Joel Meares - CJR | James O’Keefe’s predecessors, their stings, and their ethicsMarch 10, 2011
The Columbia Journalism review takes a look at undercover stings before James O'Keefe's.
"NPR video stings ethics too" - James Rainey - Los Angeles Times | Secret recordings like the ones that took down NPR's Ron Schiller and embarrassed Republican Gov. Scott Walker signal a disturbing move away from transparency in news gathering.March 11, 2011
Rainey frames the O'Keefe undercover reports as a cautionary tale, and an indication of a sea change in journalistic ...
"Brooke Kroeger on James O'Keefe and Undercover Reporting: A CJR Podcast" - Joel Meares - Columbia Journalism ReviewMarch 11, 2011
Q & A with Brooke Kroeger after James O'Keefe's NPR sting in 2011.
Commentary on the ethics of undercover reporting, putting in context the O'Keefe sting on NPR.
a podcast about undercover reporting and its misuses
"The Bureau applauds the Guardian's pursuit of NI, but undercover reporting is still important" - The Bureau of Investigative JournalismJuly 12, 2011
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism discusses The Guardian's use of investigative reporting and the culture of ...
"Cryptic Message Triggers Fears Over Fate of Chinese Reporter's Investigative Team" - Jonathan Watts - The Guardian (UK) | Journalist Wang Keqin Causes Alarm with Blogpost Amid Claims Officials are Targeting his China Economic Times NewspaperJuly 18, 2011
Influential Chinese investigative journalist, Wang Keqin, is receiving terrifying backlash regarding his undercover ...
"The Observatory; Heartland, Gleick, and Media Law" - Curtis Brainard - CJR | Experts Weigh in on Leaks and Deceptive TacticsMarch 1, 2012
"Vietnam: Four-Year Jail Sentence For Undercover Reporting Into Police Corruption" - Unsigned - Eurasia ReviewSeptember 7, 2012
Reporter Hoang Khuong was convicted for the usage of investigative reporting, after writing two stories that were ...
The New York Times Public Editor examines in a "minor case study" Eric Lipton's surreptitious entry to a private ...
"With China going from strength to strength, is the outside world's resolve wavering over Tibet? François Picard's ...
"Journalism: To Sting or Not to Sting?" - Roy Greenslade - The Guardian | The line that editors walk between legitimate investigation and entrapment can sometimes be a fine oneJune 2, 2013
Roy Greenslade questions the legitimacy of investigative reporting. He uses several examples of times he thinks ...