The health of oneself or another

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

With the recent epidemic over the Zika virus and the concern that the virus will spread, this reminds me of a time when another virus had caused quite a concern over its outbreak – Ebola.

As many news stations and media outlets like to do whenever there is a possibility that a new virus could be the death of us all, many rushed to the “scene of the crime” to get the best available close up of the disease in action, to not only stir up pandemonium but number of viewers to.

During the Ebola outbreak, one of these reporters that dashed to cover the outbreak was NBC News’ Chief Medical Editor, Nancy Snyderman. Snyderman had been in Liberia when her news team camera man contracted Ebola. The team was then flown back to the US where eventually the camera man was found to be Ebola free. However, during that time Snyderman had been under a voluntary quarantine which she broke in the name of fast food.

This leads to several questions of ethics concerning Ms. Snyderman’s behavior. Firstly, Snyderman broke her promise to stay under voluntary quarantine for 21 days until she was confirmed to be symptom free. In doing this, she lost her integrity as a reporter that would keep her word and as a medical correspondent, who by nature of her job, should understand the serious consequences had she had the Ebola virus and inadvertently spread the virus by stepping out to get some fast food.

As a reporter, people place their trust in a reporter’s ability to thoroughly do their job and investigate the truth. A reporter has an obligation to first the people that they are committed to telling the truth to and then themselves. While it is a difficult issue to understand how one could possibly place others before their own welfare, a journalist essentially risks many aspects of their personal life and health for the sake of the whole of the people.

Especially in Snyderman’s case she had voluntary opted to be under quarantine, knowing the consequences if she broke her word.  As a result, though not blatantly stated, Snyderman left NBC for other opportunities several months later.

Though a reporter may not be contractually bound to their word, their is an unspoken ethical guideline in the field of journalism, that a reporter investigates the truth, reports the truth and lives by the truth. It can be invasive into ones personal life as was the case during Snyderman’s quarantine, but out of respect to her integrity as a reporter and to her own colleague for that matter, she should have remained quarantined.


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