Opening case studies

31 Aug


We opened the semester’s work with nine sample case studies – some drawn from real-life, a couple hypothetical – illustrating typical problems in nine different categories that we will study during the term.

We broke into nine small groups to address each case and resolve the questions. But class time permitted full discussion of only four.

Those interested in the other five can use this thread to discuss your resolution.

If you post, please first summarize in a few sentences the case you are addressing. (the file is too big to reproduce here but each of you should have an electronic copy).

We start the semester with these cases before we have really begun to talk about the ethical decision making process and the available framework for ethical decisions. Your first-blush answers may reflect strong personal values rather than the value sets of our professions. That’s just fine. We’ll revisit the cases at the end of the semester to see if your answers will have changed.




2 Responses to “Opening case studies”

  1. atki1124 August 31, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Group 8:

    Police are investigating a homicide in Central City, Co. A nude woman was found underneath a car and two 16-year-olds confessed to the murder. They said they chose their victim at random and they were in the search of someone to rape because they “wanted to know what it would feel like to torture and kill someone.” The two boys were booked and turned over to a juvinille detention. Under state laws, their identity is to remain confidential until they are in adult court, but the courts have held the press may choose to publish the names that journalists obtain through unofficial sources. Journalists were successful at retrieving the names and checked their Facebooks to find disturbing content.

    Do the journalists publish the names of the suspects? Do you report the content of their Facebooks? Do you report the confessions?

    Our group believed that this case wasn’t black and white. We decided to publish the names because they confessed to the murder and the court allowed it. Argument: don’t publish the names until proven guilty.

    Facebook is public and anyone can access it. We would publish that they had disturbing content, but not it detail to avoid offending the family of the victim.
    Argument: if you don’t publish the name, then don’t publish the content because it is obvious you are keeping information from your readers.

    We decided that we would report that the boys confessed, but not in detail to avoid offending the family of the victim. The boys confessed to make the information public.
    Argument: the law might now allow it because it’s an ongoing case.

    Kristi Atkinson

    • Steve August 31, 2011 at 10:45 am #

      There are numerous ethical issues attached to this case, based on a murder that occurred in Colorado Springs when I was editor of the paper.

      Press/bar guidelines (which are somewhat less rigorous than rules but stronger than simple recommendations) say that confessions should not be reported in ongoing criminal cases because knowledge of a confession could taint a jury pool.

      Still, journalists frequently exercise independent judgment, arguing that reporting a confession — detailed or not — can provide news consumers with vital information, particularly if knowledge of a confession helps calm public fears or helps explain an act so heinous that it seems to defy explanation. Still, the decision to print existence of a confession cannot be taken lightly.

      In class, we talk about the ethics calculation. What outcomes might be so important as to outweigh the recommendation that a confession not be reported?


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