The case for using informed consent in journalism [BOOK CHAPTER]

The case for using informed consent in journalism [BOOK CHAPTER]
Bruce Gillespie
The Routledge Companion to Journalism Ethics [Routledge 2021]
News stories have a much longer lifespan today than they used to, and the nature of search algorithms means that today’s unflattering story could become the top search result for an individual for years or even decades to come. Thus, now is the ideal moment to consider a new ethical contract between journalists and their ordinary human sources in the digital age, the foundation of which is informed consent. Such an arrangement would emphasize the importance of people who are not media-savvy experts understanding how the personal information they share with a reporter could be used, the possible consequences of becoming part of a published story, and how much, if any, input they would be able to offer throughout and after the publication process. This chapter reviews the existing rights of sources, including the European “right to be forgotten,” and examines how some journalists’ associations and news organizations have updated their codes of conduct and processes with respect to post-publication editing and “unpublishing.” It then reviews the literature about the value of giving ordinary sources more control over how their contributions are used and suggests a framework for how and when to implement informed consent in journalism.

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