Pages Navigation Menu

Crossing the line: student challenges public media ethics


When a television reporter crossed the line to get a story about a local high school’s security system that led to a school lockdown, a student journalist challenged the media’s ethics.

Kirkwood High School’s (Mo.) Ian Madden knew from journalism class that truth is the most important tool in journalistic ethics. When a reporter from the St. Louis television station KSDK (Channel 5) went under cover to gather information about the the flaws in Kirkwood High School building security, Madden knew he had to challenge the television reporter’s ethics. In addition to surreptitiously gaining entrance into the school, the professional reporter misconstrued and left out crucial information that set off Madden. He was not the only one who noticed. Media from across the country picked up Madden’s challenge, which ultimately let to an apology to the public from the television station.

According to Madden’s adviser, Mitch Eden, “everybody noticed. Local media, social media and, of course, the Kirkwood H.S. media. Ian Madden, Kirkwood Call opinions writer, was so upset he started writing at midnight and posted to the next morning. It connected with the audience receiving more than 30,000 hits in a three-day span. Ian was a spokesperson for his peers and community. He was questioning journalism ethics by the professional media. His piece was picked up and mentioned in several local media outlets and he was a guest on a KMOX radio show. The event itself eventually reached the New York Times, Poynter, SPJ and more. But it was Ian who modeled professional standards, quality journalism and even better passion and judgment first.”

Click this link to read Madden’s challenge to the professional media.

The following links document the impact of one student’s mission to challenge public media’s for engaging in unethical reporting practices.

*The Call’s breaking news piece of the event for background:

*Check out these links of professional media covering the event and subsequently covering the journalistic ethics in question:

KHS/KSDK Security “Test”

The Call – Opinions (Ian Madden)

The Call – Breaking News (Antonia Akrap and Jane Manwarring)



SNO Summary

KMOX Radio Show with Ian Madden

Huffington Post







Opposing Views:

Gateway Journalism Review:

The Apology

St. Louis Today

SPJ Ethical Code: Avoid undercover methods of gathering info except when traditional open methods won’t yield info vital to public.


New York Times

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.