About that hidden camera
1. The power of the powerful.
2. The ethics of the hidden camera as a journalistic tool.
Let's take the first thread first. The consensus that has developed, at least in social-media circles, is that the censorship took place only because the reporting touched the country's "powerful". These digital critics point out the countless times hidden cameras have been used to expose petty criminals, frauds and cons, but none of those cases provoked any corporate reaction.
René Cortázar defended his decision to drop the report because it "didn't fit with the channel's editorial line". So, what does that mean? His point is that hidden cameras should only be used to expose actual crimes. And in this case there was no crime.
This prompts a question: Is it acceptable for journalists to expose social foibles in this kind of news report? In this case it was classism, but it could have been xenophobia, racism, etc.
The answer there seems fairly straightforward.
The second question about the ethics of hidden cameras generates the richest discussion in terms of journalism. In the past few days, editorials have been demonizing the use of hidden cameras, comparing them to the infamous hacking scandal perpetrated by The News of the World.
Is it journalistically acceptable to use hidden cameras? The law certainly doesn't prevent it. In Chile, it is illegal to use hidden cameras in private spaces, like one's home. In a public place, such as a park or store, the cameras are not illegal.
It's important to note that the controversial Channel 13 report wasn't very good. There were weaknesses in its structure. But in the end, it was an effort to shine a light on the very ugly reality of profound classism that Chileans know exists but that generally stays hidden. According to the OECD, Chile has one of the world's most segregated education systems, just to name one example.
But the key question for us journalists is whether we do - or ought to - support the use of hidden cameras. Let's open a discussion of the question here at The Media Project.