The public interest test - Question 4
The question is one of four relating to The public interest test training module.
Reporters come back with some further insight. The son was a brilliant and popular student. He is single, lives alone, dedicated to his job but with a lively social life. Nobody has seen him in the past few days. The education authority finally says that he is on sick leave. It is aware of the police investigation but the son has not been suspended.
At this point you are under pressure to use your resources on other stories. You have to make a decision. Is it:
a) publish the facts as known.
b) in addition to the facts, speculate on the possible effect on the public and parliamentary debate about drugs.
c) drop the story.
Correct answer: a) publish the facts as known.
Your choices here are basically: report briefly, report big or do not report at all. The key question is whether publication is in the public interest.
Bob Eggington has been a journalist since 1969. He began in newspapers before joining the BBC where he worked for almost 30 years, including a spell as the head of the BBC's political and parliamentary unit. He was the project director responsible for launching BBC News Online in 1997. Bob currently works as a media strategy consultant in the UK and overseas.
This site has been given permission to use and adapt elements of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines in these short editorial ethics modules. They have been updated to reflect changing international, regional and cultural variations.