Professor talks ethics, past experiences

At a lecture on ethics on July 12, high school journalism students listened to Kathleen Johnston, founding director of the Michael I. Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism, share her advice on reporting ethically.

“My first approach is [asking myself], ‘How would I like to be treated if I was in that position?’” Johnston said.

She talked about her experience with investigative journalism and ethics. She primarily detailed the experience she had working with Drew Griffin of CNN on a story about the lack of United States air marshals after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

“It was interesting to hear someone else’s opinion on this and experiences of when there was an ethical dilemma,” Carmel High School sophomore Viyang Hao said.

Hao later explained that she enjoyed Johnston’s story and found it informative. Johnston explained how they kept the anonymity of air marshals willing to speak against the government, but also of the effect it had on CNN: Griffin was put on the watchlist by the US government and CNN was targeted by Congress. Although the effects for the company and Griffin were negative, the burden did not go on the sources.

“I’ve killed more stories than I’ve run,” Johnston said, “I’ve yet to find a story worth someone’s life.”

She gave advice ethically reporting at all levels, such as being fair and consistent. Johnston told the students she has not regretted choosing to run a story in her years of working in journalism, but explained to the students that is a personal decision. She taught that in the decision process, journalists need to do what they and their organization thinks is right.

“Once you start taking risks, you put your whole team in danger,” Johnston said.