What might the reporter have done to protect himself?
A reporter is putting together a television news story about prostitution in a disreputable part of town. The reporter needs footage for the TV spot. In the evening, from behind the window of the reporters van, the reporter films a group of three women who appear to be soliciting. The reporter puts the footage together with a voice over that suggests the women depicted are prostitutes and send it off for airing.
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The first thing policemen, investigators, and even reporters, do is to read up on the eavesdropping laws regarding wiretapping, camera-taping, and divulging information gathered through the use of these methods. Each state of the US has a different rule regarding eavesdropping and camera taping. If any of those laws are broken, the reporter could face federal criminal charges.
For example in Sussman versus American Broadcasting Corporation, the ABC news station was sued for using its cameras to try to catch fake psychics making predictions over the phone. The only thing that saved ABC was that in California only one person can give consent to tape and that there was no proof to show that ABC would have used the tape for a purpose other than to disclose fraud.
“[the accuser] produced no probative evidence that ABC had an illegal or tortious purpose”
However, in Baugh v. CBS a situation very similar to the scenario of this question occurred where a camera crew taped a woman in the middle of a conflict after falsely telling her that the taping would help her case in a DA's office. Here we see the same intent of malice on the part of the camera crew, willing to go at any lengths to obtain information and stretch the truth just to satisfy a hypothetical report.
Hence, the best he can do to protect himself is to use his research skills more effectively to:
1. Contact the police department to have CERTAINTY on where he can go to get legitimate information regarding prostitution.
2. Ask to work directly WITH the police department so that not only can he get protection from them, but he may even have a chance to speak directly with a real prostitute who may even accept compensation to speak to the camera (provided her identity is concealed).
3. Ask the news station to let the police allow him to go on a stakeout if they are planning to work in that area. It is safer, the police know what they are doing, and the news reporter at least will go with a clear mind that he will be telling the truth to the audience, hence, following good work ethics.
And first and foremost, the reporter must check with the news agency's Editorial staff and Legal Department.
Included is a link to the laws of each state regarding camera usage, wiretapping, and eavesdropping.
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