Barbara, Kalia, and Destiny outside their home in North Carolina in 2012. Photo by Pat Walters.

What If There Was No Destiny?

Listen to “What If There Was No Destiny?”

Sometimes, I wish there was a quadratic equation for journalism ethics. Just plug in the variables and the equation spits out the answer: “No. Don’t do that — ever.” Or, “Yes. This is allowed in this circumstance.” Wouldn’t that make ethical decision making easier?

Take, for instance, use of the pronoun “I.” In so many cases, using “I,” is verboten. Yet, with greater frequency, “I” appears in more and more pubic radio journalism. Seems like “I” now exists in a gray area — perfect for the ethics quadratic equation.

But, what about personal opinion? Isn’t that forbidden? I don’t hear too much of that. It appears that line is relatively clear. But, then again…

Listen to the Radiolab story featured on this edition of HowSound. It’s called “What If There Was No Destiny?” The line on opinion is blurred slightly in this story when reporter Pat Walters says: “I asked Barbara about some of the things she said because, to be totally honest, they kind of turned my stomach.” And, there’s more. You’ll have to listen.

After you do, will you please apply your quadratic equation for ethics to this and let me the answer you arrive at?

Rob Rosenthal

Rob Rosenthal

Rob Rosenthal is an independent producer and a teacher. He’s the host for the HowSound podcast - a joint project of PRX and Transom - on radio storytelling. He started and then ran the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies’ radio track for 11 years. And, he is now the lead teacher for the Transom Story Workshop, which launched in the fall of 2011.

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