The longstanding debate about whether and when a reporter can intervene in a story is rekindled in the age of inequality
By Alexis Fitts and Nicola Pring
Columbia Journal Review
Originally published July 1, l2014
Here are a few excerpts:
She watched children beg their way into play dates for the promise of a meal. She watched a teacher handing out apples be thronged by more hungry students than he could feed.
She never offered help. When a photographer she was working with gave a bag of groceries to one family, Nazario felt he had crossed an ethical line. “I think what was beaten into me early as a reporter was you don’t intervene or change a story that you’re writing about,” says Nazario. As she would patiently explain to each subject at the beginning of her reporting, she was there to observe, to tell a story that alerts the public to problems and hopefully motivates others to address those problems. It is a traditional notion of objectivity that has been American journalism’s defining ideal for more than a century.
The irony is that Nazario’s story had real impact: Within 24 hours of its publication, child-abuse reports in Los Angeles County increased by 20 percent, and eventually rose 45 percent. The county ordered an audit of the Child Welfare Agency and reorganized its reporting hotlines. More federal and state funds were allocated to programs for addicted mothers. The story also improved the lives of the families she’d profiled: The county placed Tamika Triggs in a foster home; her mother was admitted to a choice rehabilitation program.
The entire story is here.
Thanks to Dr. Deborah Derrickson Kossmann for this story.
Editor's note: Clearly, psychologists face issues related to poverty, inequality, and emotional suffering. An ethical dilemma may emerge when a psychologist struggles with boundary issues while in their professional role. These issues typically involve compassion overriding professional judgment and role.