As a journalist, it is important to be transparent about who you are when conducting an interview. Ethical lines are often blurred when it comes to breaking a story, but this is one of those times where the journalist went way too far over the line.
The reporter, Ian Murphy, the editor of the news Web site “Buffalo Beast,” called up Wisconsin governor Scott Walker while posing as a billionaire conservative activist, who was close to Governor Walker. Murphy misrepresented himself to get an inside look at Walker’s strategies and ideas. They spoke on the phone for nearly 20 minutes under false pretences. Murphy has been using his deceit and poor ethics to score interviews on major media outlets across the country. His shameless move has gotten his online news Web site more publicity than it ever deserves.
This interview could have told us much more than your typical face to face interview wouldn’t. For starters, the governor instantly had his guard down, because he thought that he was talking to a friend. There could be some sensitive information that he was hiding that shouldn’t get out to the public, but this reporter used unethical means to try and find this. Everyone speaks to reporters differently than when they are speaking to their own friends.
Using such deceptive ways would absolutely lead to more candid survey answers; however it is not the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter if you think people will speak more openly when they are unaware who they are talking to, acquiring survey information that way is wrong.
Risks of deception are greater now, especially for those being deceived, because of the Internet. If you say one wrong thing, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and traditional outlets blow up with the information you were tricked into giving. It instantly pays dividends to the person doing the tricking, and will make the tricked look foolish. It will spin out of control before people even have the chance to take a breath. Twenty years ago, the reporter would formulate a story and check sources and everything before printing something. They would be thorough. Now, its just get the story as quickly as possible.