The Duty of a Journalist

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

“You have a choice to make. If you choose to publish that article, you will be responsible for ruining the reputation of the school. Do you want to have that on your shoulders?” Assistant Principal Jeff Dingo asked me sternly. The following day, Principal Joe Schwartz summoned me to his office and warned that although he had never censored the school newspaper, Tandro, he had the right to do so. Several faculty members advised me to think carefully about publishing the article. Seven months earlier at the Iowa Forensics Institute, I researched and debated whether journalists have an ethical obligation to withhold information from the public. Now, as co-editor-in-chief of Tandro, I needed to answer that question in the “real world.”

Less than a week earlier, we had learned of a drinking incident on a school-sponsored trip to France and decided to investigate. Gradually, we discovered the administration’s motive for seeking to suppress the story. Despite adopting a zero-tolerance policy following the widely publicized 2003 Homecoming drinking debacle, the administration rescinded the punishments it had meted out because students had apparently been told by a faculty chaperone they could drink in moderation to fully experience the...

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