After Reading

The Story Everybody Missed

1. Although the "Tainted Cash"" project revealed serious abuses of people"s rights, should the press be faulted for not taking a closer look at the program until after it had operated for three years?

2. What changes in the press"s approach to daily stories is suggested by its failure to closely examine the drug interdiction program during its first year.

3. In covering stories on a daily basis, journalists are expected to answer the five "W" questions of who, what, when, where and why plus how.
      Does the failure to examine the drug interdiction program before 1992 suggest that mantra needs changing? Suggest some better questions.

4. How is investigative reporting like covering a beat?

Background and Bias

1. Drawing from the chapter"s depiction of this author"s background, education and deep interest in civil rights, discuss how such influences could have a bearing on any reporter"s ability to try to be objective in investigating alleged racial discrimination.

2. Discuss the controversial notion of objective reporting by asking the students to give their opinion on the meaning of objectivity.
     Discuss the dictionary definition of objectivity. Discuss objectivity and its relationship to the scientific method. Recognizing that human beings, including reporters, cannot be robotically objective, discuss methods reporters can use to make their reporting and writing as objective as human frailties allow.

3. Discuss how background, education and bias can affect reporting and writing. Are there journalistically positive ways such background, including a reporter"s bias, can affect the reporting and writing?

4. Discuss the danger of the big-story bias.

War and Journalism

1. Compare the 1990s "war on drugs" and the impact of the press coverage of the drug interdiction program with today"s "war on terrorism" and coverage of the search for Iraq"s weapons of mass destruction and the run-up to the war.

2. Discuss the possible conflict between journalism"s duty to ask critical questions in accord with its watchdog responsibilities and patriotism during a time of war.

Selecting Case Studies

After the reporters completed a record search, they launched a series of mini-investigations into many of the backgrounds of motorists whose cash had been seized.

1. Discuss what criteria they would use in selecting motorists to use as anecdotes in the story.

2. In a few cases, they eliminated motorists with clean criminal records for subjective reasons.
     Although they articulated seemingly rational reasons for such selectivity, could the story have provided stronger evidence that the drug interdiction program was punishing people despite the lack evidence of connecting the money to a drug deal if we had not set the standard so high?
     Would it have changed the theme of the story?
     Discuss the pros and cons using two types of motorists—those with clean records and those with prior records but against whom there was no evidence of wrongdoing in the cash-seizure case.
     Would this have added an elevated dimension to the story?

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