Monday, January 5, 2009

So we are leaving

It's sometimes impossible to know when journalists have made a good ethical decision because the result is something that does not appear in print or on air.

Such is the case this morning on NBC.

The background: As the entire country knows, today is the first day that President-elect Barak Obama's two daughters will attend their new, Washington-D. C. school. This is a minor story--but a newsworthy marker of the impending change in political power.

However, covering it raises privacy concerns, particularly about two children who have a lot of adjusting to do both with and without the presence of journalists, crews and cameras. Here the ethical question is straightforward: how much and what sort of coverage to provide of this event.

In my view, NBC made the correct choice. It reported that the Obama girls had left the White House for their new school--both with video of the kids leaving their temporary hotel residence and with what broadcast journalists call a "stand up" in front of the new school.

And, then, the reporters and camera crews left. NBC won't be airing footage of the girls as they walk into their new school.

Good call. The public needs to know that the girls are going to a new school. We don't need to watch them enter it. The girls do need to begin to make this tremendous adjustment in some privacy.

One example of journalists doing something right--even if it means the curious among us don't have quite every picture we might want.

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