Saturday, February 24, 2007

Investigative reporting... in a box

Yet another "investigative report" on Princeton zygotes beer-sliding their way through the best four years of their lives...

A friend forwarded this to me:
Undercover at Princeton's Eating Clubs

At first I was impressed with the access the reporter got. Bicker is highly secretive and eating club members generally don't talk to the media because they've been skewered by the New York Times a few too many times. (There was a full page article on Ivy in the NYT when I was there). So the first question is, who cares what a bunch of naked, drunk kids choose to do with their Thursday and Saturday nights? Why the fixation?

And then the second question is, how did this guy get access. I've been told that the reporter did not identify himself as a reporter to the people he interviewed. He also didn't get any official response from the clubs themselves, and apparently many of the quotes were inaccurate or out of context. Clearly unethical, and equally hard to prove. Most importantly, the reporter was trespassing. The clubs are on private property, and the photographs (though they did blur out the faces) were not taken with permission or acknowledgement that they would appear in a newspaper.

And one more ethical barb. At the article's outset, this gumshoe reporter seems to be focusing on serious issues of race and class, but doesn't develop them. Instead, he intimates that the bicker process is racist, an allegation that lacks the reporting to back it up, but has the same negative impact on the reader. Sloppy, and though you may not feel for the poor little rich kids, unfair.

The Daily Princeton published a response: 'Undercover' story upsets Bicker clubs

I'll highlight one priceless quote: "I would've loved to publish comments about whether or not their stories were or were not true," the reporter said to the Princetonian...

I understand the fascination with eating clubs, because they are somewhat unique and an unapologetic stronghold of old-school social tradition. But I question whether the annual "investigative report" on Princeton's eating clubs is the best use of dwindling journalistic resources...


At Saturday, February 24, 2007, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

Race and class? More like *ahem* T*** and A**.

This article was a gratuitous exercize in detailing the semi-nude rituals of college students, a fact of life at almost every American university.


At Saturday, February 24, 2007, Anonymous TD said...

Wow, this guy broke every single rule in the journalism ethics is surprising to me that a newspaper would publish a story that relied so heavily on multiple anonymous sources.
And the picture the paper printed is just...terrible. On private property people should be able to expect a certain level of security, but by appearing naked save a box at a large gathering, those guys were asking for attention. Anyone, journalist or not would have probably taken their picture!(But again it still doesn't justify the action).

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