The case study, The Pimp, the Prostitute, and the Preacher, brings to light a number of ethical delimas as highlighted in the class discussion.
In the case study, a preacher is called as a witness in an illeal prostitution case. While the names of other witnesses are unpublished, the reporter questions whether or not to include the name of the preacher in his story. The inclusion of the preacher’s name may cause him to lose his job and destroy his family.
It was noted in class that the preacher is a “public figure” and therefore the publication of his name in connection with the case is in the best interest of public knowledge.
On this point, I disagree. The preacher in a well-populated area is not a true public official. He is unaffiliated with government activities or funding. His decisions do not greatly affect the way the majority of the population lives their lives. His sphere of influence may extend to the congregation of his church, but will not realisticly cause behavior changes elsewhere.
This idea complies with the seperation of church and state. Church officials are not members of government and therefore included in the principal of fair public comment.
The right of the preacher’s wife to be informed of the occurances was also asserted by a classmate. While this is a morally sound point, it is not the responsability of the journalist to inform her. This task should fall to the preacher, and him alone. His actions as an individual within his marriage are not open to outside comment.
As a journalist, it is important to evaluate the news value of the story. The trial resulted in dismissal, and at that point is no longer relevant to public interest. The question of whether or not prostitution occured is never legally established. On this point, if prostitution was not effectively proven, one can not legally accuse the preacher of illegal activity. Such publication could prove risky and result in a libel suit against the paper.
At the end of the day, the general public has no investment in the preacher and it is not relevant news.