Using the recent school scare caused by a reporter at KSDK as an example, The New York Times looks at the “broader questions about the ethical and practical implications” of undercover reporting on school security:
Jen Wilton, who has two sons at the [St. Louis] school, said she was frightened when one of them texted to tell her about the lockdown. The news station had crossed the line, she said. “They certainly didn’t do me any service,” she said. “I have a few more gray hairs because of it, and it terrified my kids and a lot of other kids.”
Critics say these kinds of undercover efforts do not provide an accurate portrait of school safety, and question whether they serve any public good. Some journalists question whether the news organizations become too much a part of the story, and whether it is dangerous for reporters to wander into schools now that students and staff are often on heightened alert.
“I think that for a news organization to just go on this type of random fishing expedition, there has to be a really good journalistic purpose,” said Bob Steele, a professor of journalism ethics at DePauw University. “There has to be some reason that you’re doing that, that you are testing something in particular based on some sort of evidence other than just, ‘school security is a problem in our country.’ ”