Risking the Ethics: A Prostitution Article Dilemma

24 Apr

Dave Gossett, a reporter for the Herald-Star, isn’t a stranger to ethical issues. With almost 43 years of being in the journalism field under his belt, he’s been faced with many ethical dilemmas.  However, one that stuck out in his mind the most was one pertaining to a three-part series called Life on the Streets: Prostitution in Steubenville.

Two years ago, Gossett was asked by people if he would be willing to talk to prostitutes in downtown Steubenville about how they got into the line of work that they do and why.

“It was such an issue because it was such a problem in our downtown business district and these people wanted them gone,” said Gossett. “I know what they’re doing isn’t great and it’s not going to lead a long for them if they keep doing it, but they’re people. They’re ordinary people.”

After getting permission from his two editors to do the story, Gossett was ready to take it on. His editors were the only people in the news room to know about this story. He wanted to keep it as quiet as possible.

He interviewed three different women, all who used different names, in separate locations. One interview took place at a homeless shelter, and another took place in the public library. The woman admitted to him that before she showed up, she had gotten high because of how nervous she was for the interview.

“It’s somewhat of an ethical problem because I’m interviewing these people who are committing illegal crimes,” said Gossett.

It wasn’t until after he had gathered all the information he needed that Gossett spoke to the cops about what was going on. Needless to say, the police were pretty surprised but they weren’t angry. They wanted to know how Gossett had found out what he did, and how he was able to find the prostitutes. It all came down to Gossett being able to have people to make connections for him. As for the women, the cops never really pushed Gossett to find out who they were. They know them well enough by seeing them roam around downtown Steubenville.

“I’ll talk to anybody. My job is to get the interview, that’s what I want,” said Gossett. “I want that different interview and that different story.”

In my opinion, I think Gossett did the right thing by not involving the police until the end. While it could have been a risky situation crime wise and it could have potentially upset the police, Gossett needed that information for the story he was writing. The whole point was to get a life on the streets perspective. If Gossett had only interviewed the cops, businesses around the area that wanted them gone, and other individuals that would have had an opinion on it, the story wouldn’t have been nearly as strong. They have a story worth telling, and Gossett did a great job of finding out just what that story was.

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