Reflecting on the Senator Vetinari Exercise

This reflection relates to the article, Senator Visits Brothel in Tax-Payer Funded Car.

What was your main consideration in selecting your angle?

I considered what would be in the public interest, but also a fair and accurate report when selecting the angle for this story. The allegation Senator Vetinari has used Government cars for personal business is newsworthy as he is a public figure engaging in wrongdoing. I believe the angle I have selected has impact and would grab readers’ attention because it reveals important information about a public representative.

Ultimately though, I do believe more research needs to be conducted to write a rounded and completely fair, balanced and accurate article. It is important to adhere to fairness, accuracy and balance as this story would have both ethical and legal implications.

What was the main legal implication in covering this story?

The main legal implication in covering this story is the potential for defamation. Reporting the allegation Senator Vetinari abused tax payer money by using a government car for personal business and visited a brothel would be a legal risk. It is quite possible Vetinari could sue for defamation because the information could be seen as causing hatred, ridicule or contempt in the minds of “right thinking people”.

It may be difficult to defend a case against defamation in this instance; the allegation could not be defended by the anonymous source in court and a personal testimony that you saw him drive the car to the brothel may be judged harshly because spying is widely considered unethical. The information Vetinari used a government car to attend a brothel would have to be supported by a source in court to defend it’s truth.

This report may not be considered fair, accurate or balanced and would likely lose a defamation case on this ground. However, the judge may take into account the great public interest in publishing the information. Vetinari is a public figure and should be held accountable to his actions. The continuous battle between journalism’s underlying philosophies of ‘do no harm’ and full disclosure is evident here.

What was the main ethical consideration in covering this story?

It is important to consider the way information was gathered. Was the research process ethical? Following Senator Vetinari’s car without his knowledge is an unethical practice. Although reporting Vetinari’s entrance to a brothel may be accurate, it could be considered unfair and unbalanced. However, one may argue reporting the information was fair as it was in great public interest; public figures should be held accountable for their actions. Seeking a comment from Vetinari or his office would contribute to the fairness of the report by allowing a right of reply.

To take this story further, who would you contact and why?

To take this story further I would speak to government members about the guidelines around using government cars and to hear of any other past scandals. I would speak to Ventari’s fellow senators to hear if they know anything of the allegation he is using a government car for private use. I would attempt to speak to Ventari himself about the allegations and allow him to make a statement.

It is important to base reported information from people other than anonymous sources to be able to successfully defend the reportage in a defamation case. The report should be fair, balanced, accurate and as true as possible.


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