Saturday, 27 September 2014

The new ethical quagmire for journalists

Before today, even if you happened to live in Braintree, the chances are you hadn't paid much attention to the career of the Minister for Civic Society, Brooks Newmark. But now we all know his name.

It appears that a journalist has ensnared him to show a picture of him in his Paisley pyjamas which revealed rather more than most people should reveal in a clothed picture but a great deal less than some of the pictures recently leaked from iCloud.

The fact is that the married, father of five, who is MP for Braintree has resigned from his Government post on the eve of his party's conference. But the only person that this story may have been of interest to would surely have been his wife, and even then we cannot prejudge the nature of the marital relationship between the Newmarks. There are all sorts of possibilities that such a relationship may have been totally okay with this. They may be in a consentual open marriage. It may be that the marriage is beyond repair but they are staying together for the sake of the children and/or his or her career. It may of course be that his has done this against her wishes and without her knowledge and he is in deep trouble with the woman he married who still loves him.

The only reason that this could have been a public interest story is if there were anything illegal going on, or he was being hypocritical in his behaviour and his speeches in Westminster. If the journalist was entrapping him because of something illegal that Newmark had previous on why not take that evidence to the police? The reason of course is that there wasn't anything illegal, this male journalist impersonated a young woman to entrap the MP to get a story for the weekend of party conference.

The ethics of our journalists were under trial over phone hacking and this is a new depth. Posing as someone they are not to entrap either through text messages, or maybe online, into revealing images that could damage such people's careers. In other words impersonation, entrapment and then blackmail like releasing the story. New depths appear to have been sunk to to gather this story.

Journalists are not law enforcement, judge and jury of people's actions. Nor are they the arbitrator and curator of people's private lives. As when numerous ordinary people tweeted at The Last Leg on the issue of nude selfies, many more ordinary people are actually doing exactly what Mr Newmark did. Many of them will be readers of the newspaper this journalist works for. Some of them will undoubtedly be married to someone who isn't the recipient of that text or photo share via Skype, a website or email. But unless a law is being broken what they are doing or what Newmark was doing isn't actually illegal. It may not be part of your normal daily behaviour, it may be behaviour that you do not consider participating in but that doesn't make you the moral compass for everyone else.

Update Buzzfeed appear to have unearthed the Twitter account that the journalist used to flirt with a number of Conservative MPs. This is looking a lot more like a honey trap what was set far and wide.

No comments:

Post a Comment