Taken for Granite > Intensive Porpoises

Ethics in Writing and Journalism

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I'm having an ethical dilemma and I'd like to get some input on it:

For my school's Lit mag, I recently conducted an interview with a second-generation Arab-American girl. My intentions were to highlight what it's like to be An Arab-American girl and an Arab girl, to try and show some of the kids in my high school what it's like to live as one, what Arab-Americans go through, etc. A friend of mine, a Lebanese-American who emigrated (but very easily passes for second-generation Arab-American, no trace of accent, and is very Americanized/liberal) when she was younger, helped me with some of the questions. I recorded the entire interview so I could transcribe it later, tighten up some of the questions and the wording involved on both my questions and her responses. During the course of the interview, a teacher we both like and respect was listening in, since we were using the teacher's room to conduct the interview, and I asked the teacher to ask her own questions too. Of course, credit would be given to both my friend and the teacher in the final interview as printed in the litmag.

Since the interview is of a questionable nature, i.e., some Arabs may react harshly to it, I talked with the girl in question about whether or not she wanted to remain anonymous or have her name attached to it. I proceeded to transcribe the interview and show it to her, so she could look over it and get a feel for the interview itself. A couple hours later she came back to me and said that she was offended by much of it, and how stereotypical the questions are. And, re-reading it myself, I can see her point. The teacher in this story does have a very clear line of thinking and often when she expresses herself, those thoughts are made clear. The Arab I interviewed asked me to rephrase these questions to be less stereotypical, because she was getting upset about what she herself had said, and she could only imagine the backlash resulting from having the interview printed. She also wanted to change some of her former answers.

My problem is this: some of the answers changed are very clearly different, radically different in fact from her original answers. They're re-phrased to sound more accomodating to the Arabic community, and I feel they're less honest than before when she was recorded. They sound defensive now, as if carefully prepared (which they are). And some of the questions she found offensive, some of them were very valid. At what point does the interview become my intellectual property, really, where I can do and say what I want with it? How legitimate are her requests to change the answers or the questions? I feel at some point that if I change the answers I'm changing the truth, or being less truthful to the original idea. What is the rule of thumb here? At what point is it my property versus her property, and what would a real journalist do in this situation?

And, to top it all off, I have to have all of this handled via e-mail correspondence since I have to finish assembling the magazine on the computer by Monday the 6th.

Definitely a complex issue. Are there any other Arab-Americans you could interview? If she wants to change the interview that much, you're going to lose your purpose, which would suck. It might be best to just start fresh.

Because you're on such a tight deadline, find a noted Arab-American blogger and ask them if you could do an interview by e-mail and send them all the questions. Bloggers, especially good ones, are articulate and interesting, which would put your interview in the right place. Plus, it'd already be typed up to their satisfaction, and you could just drop it right in the magazine.

Hope this helps.


Post the interview.


--- Quote from: Matt --- what would a real journalist do in this situation?
--- End quote ---

Many journalists, even the "real" ones are retards, so forget about what they would do.   It seems to me like the "real" story here is what happened before, during and after the interview; the information that the interviews bring to the fore doesn't sound as interesting.  Is there a way that you can make a story of the before and after answers, and the interview process itself? It sounds hot, hot, hot! to me, and good for stirring up the pot, in a really original way.

Go White Devils!


--- Quote from: jreale ---Is there a way that you can make a story of the before and after answers, and the interview process itself? It sounds hot, hot, hot! to me, and good for stirring up the pot, in a really original way.
--- End quote ---

I think the before & after piece would be best. With the "after" being to highlight the problem with media-driven perceptions and reactions of/to and against honest/initial opinion.


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