Is James O’Keefe a “journalist”? Does it matter? Do the political goals of an undercover reporter—or activist—affect the value of the truths he or she reveals? How does a hidden camera compare to a faked identity, when there’s a story to be told? What are the “best practices for undercover” reporting—or are there any?

In CJR’s latest podcast, assistant editor Joel Meares speaks with Brooke Kroeger, director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University to explore some of these questions. Kroeger is the author of a biography of Nellie Bly, and has become somewhat of an expert on American journalism’s long history of undercover reporting. She recently previewed a database archive of such stories, which grew out of an upcoming book entitled Undercover Reporting: The Truth about Deception.

In this conversation, Kroeger argues that undercover reporting is incredibly valuable for its power to reveal truths and affect reform in our society, and that it should not be dismissed by the more traditional journalistic community; just look at the results, she says. In fact, she points out, mainstream news outlets have often partnered with advocacy groups to do this kind of work, all throughout the history of journalism in the US.

Listen to the episode below, and be sure to check out the CJR podcast homepage on iTunes, where you can listen to past episodes and subscribe for free.



The Editors