Ethical? U of M sets up Web site to sanction students
Earlier this week, I heard from a friend at the University of Minnesota that 12 students were arrested after the annual Spring Jam party this past weekend turned into a massive riot. The situation elicited memories of Halloweens of Madison’s past, but on a much smaller scale. Then I read an article from Wednesday’s Star Tribune about the university setting up a Web site with photographs from the event, hoping community members will help identify individuals in the pictures. Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs at the university, told the Star Tribune that the same strategy was used—successfully—after the Gophers won the men’s hockey national championship in 2002.
“The last time we had to do this, enough people cared about the community to come forward and identify those who were involved,” Rinehart said. “Clearly no one likes to be a rat, so I’m sure that will be an issue, but this is a case where the students are very upset with what happened because of the very nature of this group.”
What I find fascinating is that the editor in chief of the Minnesota Daily said the pictures taken by the student newspaper during the riot will not be used on the university’s site if the intent is to sanction students for possible breaking a school conduct code.
This case brings a lot of ethical issues to my mind, especially if the student newspaper (which is supplied with funds from the university) is somehow forced to give up its 1,000-plus photos to the investigation. In a way, the photographers would be giving up their “sources.” With so much of media moving online, and reporters beginning to fuse into photographers, videographers and all-around multimedia wizards, will news organizations see themselves aiding investigations with their content? I understand that it’s a matter of public safety, but I’m not convinced that what the university is doing by setting up a Web site is ethical.
I am especially interested in hearing from industry professionals at this Friday’s ethics conference about how they think traditional journalism ethics translate into digital formats. With the media landscape changing, will ethics still exist?