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Module-1 Part-1: Ethics Exercise #1

Q. VOF graduate Gifty Pearl has reported several stories about homeless girls in Ghana. In the course of her reporting, sometimes the girls would ask Gifty for money or other items. What would you do if you were in the same situation? Would you help the girls by giving them money or would you stick to raising awareness about their challenges and solutions?

Ans. I am passionate about both volunteerism and journalism. Therefore, I would do both (help the girls as well as raise awareness about their problems and solutions). By helping, I might even identify great ways to help these girls which I can incorporate in my report as solutions. I have seen my supervisor do that and the article worked out pretty well.

However, if the girls make it a condition for interviewing them (permission fees for instance), I will not agree to pay out of compulsion and instead request them to remove the condition (I will help after removal of all conditions) for the following reasons:

(a) it becomes "forced" and volunteerism cannot be "mandatory" (volunteerism must arise out of individual choice), especially when considering my affordability
(b) it comes across as "buying a story" or "bribing to get a story" (might harm my future credibility even if I explain the terms and conditions), and there is no guarantee that the process will not become a negotiation/compromise/bidding of some sorts
(c) I feel journalists should have access to information without having to pay for it (non-disclosure agreement is fine in case of sensitive information)

In short, I will help them with money as long as I am not obligated to do so as compensation for getting access to them and for reporting on them.

What are your thoughts?

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