The use of hidden cameras by the media have come a long way from the days of Alan Funt and Candid Camera. Beginning in the 1990′s these camera’s became an investigative reporters best friend. What reporters couldn’t find out by asking direct questions they could find out by sending someone undercover with a spy camera to take pictures of everything from what was happening on the campaign trail to setting up traps to catch unsuspecting child molesters on cameras.
While some of these hidden camera investigations have resulted in bringing attention to huge social and safety issues that needed to be addressed such as the treatment of the mentally insane or dangerous food safety issues to meat packing plants or grocery store chains, other investigations have only served to inflame or embarrass people for no real purpose other than to sell stories.
At the height of the hidden camera investigations reporters seemed almost to run a muck doing investigations on everything they could think of. This resulted in some expensive law suits that the media almost always won but, did serve to raise of ethical uses of these cameras which resulted in the media taking a more cautious approach to what kind of stories should be deemed as important enough to be done using hidden cameras and what stories were better left to more traditional types of reporting.
It has been decided among the media itself, that if a story involves risks to the public welfare or could perhaps save some lives then the use of hidden camera investigations could help make the public aware of the dangers and even bring about necessary change. However, hidden cameras should never be used to embarrass the common man who poses no real risk to society just to fill space on a news cast.
A food card recipient who let’s a friend use their card in exchange for money to buy their child diapers or even themselves a meal in a restaurant poses no real threat to society, where a sexual predator who is stalking pre teens or even teenagers should be exposed for the safety of society at large.
However, hidden cameras are are now being used by the media for all kinds of purposes other than straight news. Shows like What Would You Do? Use hidden cameras to film how people would react to given situations.
Blurring faces of those who are caught up into these scenarios but, not wishing to be exposed is one way of handling what could be some sticky ethical situations.
Ethics in reporting is not a new concept and did not begin with the use of hidden camera investigations. But, with each new technological advancement new ethical questions arise and old questions are revisited. Reporters and other media personnel walk a fine line between reporting genuine news and simply intruding in people’s lives.
Undercover Reporting has been used in the media many ways
Here are a few cases when hidden cameras disclosed what goes on behind the scenes.
What happens when a company gets caught ignoring the law? An investigative news team from Atlanta’s Fox 5 News recently found out when it took a hidden camera onto a government-funded public school construction site. Read more: http://www.texasgopvote.com/fix-immigration/video-no-documents-no-problem-fox-5-news-goes-undercover-tax-payer-funded-constr-002523
An undercover investigation has revealed that Marcus Bachmann’s clinic provides “pray away the gay” therapy.Marcus and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who is seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for president, have been married 30 years.The couple publicly opposes gay marriage, but Marcus Bachmann, who owns two Christian counselling centres in Minnesota, has denied allegations that his clinics attempt to “pray away the gay.”
Read more: In His Own Words: How I Went Undercover at Bachmann’s Clinic and http://www.truthwinsout.org/pressreleases/2011/07/17544/
Good Morning America consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy used a hidden camera to record negotiations over buying a used car for Edmunds.com.
Read more: http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/hidden-camera-car-shopping.html
State liquor authorities have filed charges against three of the biggest nightclubs in Los Angeles, based in part on an NBC LA hidden camera investigation. Are they nightclubs or restaurants? According to their liquor licenses, they are supposed to be restaurants, which means they should serve food. But when NBC LA producers tried ordering meals at three of LA’s hottest nightclubs, they were left hungry.
Read more: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Nightclub-Investigation-127909523.html
Undercover Camera Systems
Videotape evidence can be obtained by use of a camera system that is disguised as a button on a jacket or shirt. A button camera is battery powered, usually saves recorded videos to an SD Card for later viewing but some wearable cameras can transmit a live video feed to a recorder up to 300ft away.
Police departments are now equipping their officers with recording devices on their bodies.
Police to carry small cameras on uniform.
Read more: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/south_bay&id=7177894