Bill's Content has some harsh words for the critic of a 1978 Chicago Sun-Times project in which reporters and photographers ran a bar and documented a parade of government workers seeking bribes. (This book review has a summary.)
A newspaper's only responsibility is to the reader, not the government or corrupt government workers. Newspapers are supposed to sniff out the truth. Yes, it deceived the scumbag inspectors who would let a firetrap continue to conduct business and put customers at risk. Miner would have preferred things remain the way they were. "The ends do not justify the means." That's the mantra of those who critique, not those who do real journalism. Yeah, some evil people got lied to. Sometimes the ends DO justify the means.
I found something else interesting in the critical article, though, and it's a sad reflection about the statoe of journalism today and the kinds of stories that newspapers might not be doing.
...projects such as the Mirage were enormously expensive and time-consuming, and if they weren't going to stock the trophy case they weren't worth doing. Besides, TV's hidden cameras could spy more spectacularly.
I definitely think that exposing corruption in local government is one of the responsibilities a city's newspaper has to its readers and the town's citizens. Such investigations are indeed time- and resource-intensive, true. But while TV news can show an incriminating incident--with varying degrees of effectiveness--an investigative series can reveal an undeniable pattern of corruption and abuse with an overwhelming volume of information and lead to reform, as the Mirage investigation did. Mr. Dennis makes a strong case that such investigations are ehtical, but given the increasing corporatization of newsrooms, I fear that it's bottom-line concerns, not doubts about ethics, that are the real obstacles to investigative journalism.