Two journalists came into our class to discuss an ethical dilemma of reporting on addiction.
A big portion of the discussion was to ensure that reporting is not sensationalized.
Morgan Zalot of NBC Philadelphia and Elana Gordon of WHYY spoke about their experiences reporting on the sensitive topic.
Zalot describes her experience reporting on addiction “by accident in a way”.
She was already working on lengthy multimedia projects and did an expose on homelessness in the city. While she was reporting, her subjects in her interviews kept suggesting that she dig deeper into the story and talk about addiction and more specifically, heroin.
She became so enveloped in the story that she did follow-up stories on some of her subjects and had over 200 hours worth of footage over her time reporting.
In contrast, Elana Gordon has been doing this for awhile. She has been covering addiction on-and-off for nine years. She originally began in Public Health with a health clinic which emphasized harm reduction.
Although there are obstacles with addiction and the resulting epidemic, she enjoys reporting on it.
“It’s a very vulnerable situation so reporting on it should be tread lightly,” Gordan said.
Both journalists agree that it is challenging not to sensationalize and that it remains a constant effort. Gordan says a good rule to stick to is to think if the subject/interviewees would be okay with the resulting story. The key is to hope that no one is insulted by the journalists’ work.
“‘Is [your reporting] reflective?'” Gordon told the class to ask ourselves.
Both journalists agree that a sensitive story should humanize voices.