I’m surprised it took so long for Poynter to weigh in on the controversy over Mark Tatge using a DePauw student-athlete’s arrest records for his Investigative Reporting Techniques class. Poynter ethicist Kelly McBride tells the Education Writers Association public editor that Tatge “had alternatives that could have minimized the harm to this particular student,” such as pulling records for a larger group, instead of “putting an incredible spotlight” on Alison Stephens. McBride continued:
My fear is a lot of people think journalism is about publicly humiliating people and invading their privacy, and it would be reasonable for people who look at this from the outside to think that’s what this professor was trying to teach them to do. I can’t possibly believe that’s what he intended, but because he didn’t search for alternatives, people might draw that conclusion.
Meanwhile, University of Nebraska journalism professor Joe Weber says “there’s mud all around on this one,” but points out that “it was the police, not Tatge, who made the charges public in the first place. Once such charges are lodged, they are out there for all to see.”
The DePauw student newspaper editor says his publication “empathizes with Stephens” but “we also did our best to be fair to Tatge who is the subject of a university review.”