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How does a reporter know the person replying is who he says he is? All too often company publicists answer e-mail questions on behalf of their bosses or clients. E-mail answers often tend to be carefully scripted and thus not truly representative of what the source truly thinks. Spontaneous answers in conversation are often more truthful. Follow-up questions—usually the most productive questions in a probing interview—are also very difficult and time-consuming to ask via e-mail.

Likewise, instant message interviews should not be used to replace in-person or telephone interviews, but at times can be useful in clarifying responses.


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NYU Journalism faculty strongly urge student reporters to meet sources in person whenever possible. Often the purpose of on-the-street interviews is to try to capture the diversity of opinion in a particular population, not just to get a few lively quotes to brighten a story. In this case, a reporter should make an effort to interview enough people so that he can feel reasonably confident the story holds a fair cross-section of opinion.

Better still, she should back up her interviews with statistically legitimate polling data if available. And reporters should always be honest with their readers about the number of sources interviewed. Instead, tell readers how many people you interviewed, and attempt to quantify their views. Obligations to sources: It is imperative that journalists honor their agreements with sources; some have taken great risks in providing information. Such deals should never be undertaken lightly. Reporters must carefully consider whether to guarantee anonymity to a source, especially involving a matter that could eventually go to court.

Refusing to name a source in a legal proceeding could land a reporter in jail. The legal ramifications raised by the need to protect sources is discussed in the section on law, below. Taping conversations: There are obvious benefits to recording interviews, namely an assurance of accuracy and the creation of a verifiable record.

The Department of Journalism at NYU suggests that students first ask permission before taping any conversation to head off any potential legal entanglements.

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Begin the taping by stating the date, time and asking the person to spell his or her name, which then offers proof the subject agreed to the taping. In very rare instances, secret taping may be warranted. The reporters and editors were worried that sources would recant their stories under pressure, opening up the publication to potential litigation. Taping face to face : There are 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, that permit surreptitious recording of interviews.

These are called one-party consent states, since only one party to the conversation—the reporter, for example—need give consent. It is not, of course, legal to tape a conversation to which you are not a participant—by planting a bug or tapping a phone, for example. On the other hand, 12 states have criminal statutes that prohibit recording without the consent of all parties to the conversation: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington Vermont has no law.

Note that these are criminal statutes, the violation of which can bring a jail sentence, and these laws have been interpreted in various ways by the courts of each state. Taping over telephone: The same twelve states require consent of all parties in order to record a telephone conversation. Federal law permits the recording of phone conversations if one party consents and has been expanded to include wireless and cellular calls.

Federal Communications Commission FCC regulations conflict with federal statutory law—the FCC requires, for calls crossing state lines, that all parties be notified of the recording at the beginning of the call. The City has even posted signs prohibiting photography on its bridges and tunnels. Although reporters may see a story in testing for security vulnerabilities, this can be particularly risky. The research would probably require a certain amount of subterfuge and may well involve a violation of criminal law.

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You can expect to be prosecuted, for example, if you test airport security by trying to smuggle a box cutter onboard a passenger jet. In addition, there are laws on the books that prohibit videotaping military installations and nuclear power plants.


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  6. All such sources, particularly secondary sources, should be carefully vetted. Wikipedia, for example, is not always an accurate source and should not be cited as such. The reporter must clearly indicate where information comes from. This does not hold true if something is a well-known fact that is beyond reasonable dispute. Fact checking information: Students should always check spelling, ages, job titles, company descriptions, and other facts before submitting stories.

    Fair use: As a writer you can legally use a limited amount of copyrighted material for purposes of commentary and criticism, and parody, without first seeking permission. A book reviewer, for instance, may quote from the text she is reviewing; a film reviewer may outline the plot of a film to discuss whether the story holds together; a comedian may conjure up characters from a popular movie to be able to poke fun at it. Without the protection of fair use, copyright holders could prevent negative reviews or parodies of their work from being published or broadcast.

    For example, the following are clear violations of fair use:.

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    With video or broadcast, fair use usually applies if the material is 30 seconds or less. Much of what defines whether fair use applies is dictated by whether the excerpt goes to the heart of the copyrighted material if so, it is a violation of fair use or whether it is merely explanatory. For example, a KCAL-TV broadcast of a second clip taken from a 4-minute copyrighted video videotape that showed trucker Reginald Denny being beaten during the riots was found to violate fair use.

    Yet when documentarians took 41 seconds from a boxing match for use in a biography of Mohammed Ali, the court ruled it was not a violation of fair use because only a small amount of footage used, and its purpose was informational. In , the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers and the Independent Documentary Association endorsed a Statement of Best Practices, which defined four types of situations when producers need not seek permission under fair use:.

    Adding music to video and audio segments: Be forewarned that music is often covered by copyright.

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    You need permission to use it. Even Bach may be covered by copyright: not the actual compositions, but the particular recording you might want to use.

    https://comlugisu.ga These can be vexing decisions to make. If you are writing about a gay bar destroyed in a fire, do you release the names of deceased patrons? What if you learn a homemaker in the community had been a prostitute many years earlier. Do you run it? If a local judge rents a porn video, is that news? The Internet adds an ever-increasing number of ways to expose people—with potentially embarrassing facts reappearing on searches for years.

    Masquerading: The vast majority of the time journalists should make clear to the people they are interviewing that they are journalists. State your name and affiliation up front; i. In highly unusual circumstances there may be good reasons for not identifying oneself as a journalist. Likewise, if conducting an undercover assignment, especially if outing oneself as a reporter could result in potential harm. But these are rare examples. Web: Often reporters scour discussion threads, message boards, blog comments and online communities seeking ideas and information without identifying themselves as journalists.

    It may be permissible to cite the information if it shows, say, how some YouTube users reacted to a specific video on the site. Obviously it is not always necessary for a journalist to identify herself in that circumstance. But if a reporter wishes to use information from a blog, e-mail thread or other Web sources, she should be mindful that deception is endemic to the Internet. If at all possible, the reporter should attempt to contact the person who posted the information, identify herself as a reporter, and try to persuade the source to provide full identification.

    Undercover reporting: Going undercover is a time-honored tradition in American journalism. Done well, it can help nail corrupt politicians and cops on the take, expose fraud and racism, and shed light on the plight of women in repressive societies. As a society would we want reporters functioning as a sort of auxiliary police trying to catch our transgressions? Before engaging in any undercover work for a class assignment, consult your professor.

    Carefully consider whether your reporting could violate criminal or civil law See the Legal section for more information. Weigh the potential harm involved.

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    Could relying on subterfuge get you arrested? Could it lead to violence? Might it undermine the validity of your story? These are serious questions to consider. The San Francisco Chronicle applies three tests to undercover assignments before editors will give the go ahead:.

    Writing about children: Reporters should seek permission from a parent or guardian before interviewing children on any controversial subject. Getting a quote from a year-old on the opening of a new swimming pool would not require such permission; getting a quote on allegations that a school is unsafe would.

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