In my Journalism Media & Ethics class we screened the HBO documentary “Ganja Queen,” which told the story of a young Australian woman who was accused and then convicted of importing marijuana into Bali, Indonesia. The documentary raises a number of questions about the ethics of representation of true-life stories, especially in an age of online social-interactive media and “reality” television.
First, to what extent does a broadcaster or documentary filmmaker owe it to the audience to update knowledge about a subject? In this case, there have been numerous developments since the documentary was filmed, some of which probably would radically change the audience’s perception of events.
Second, most ordinary people are not media-savvy in the sense of having the degree of self-awareness to know when something they are saying or doing looks wrong or suspicious on camera. Does a documentary filmmaker, especially in a criminal case, owe it to the subjects to help them be at their best for the camera, or is the goal to be as unstaged and unprompted as possible?
Last, do we have different expectations of journalistic values for a high-end documentary on an essentially entertainment network like HBO? What are those news values, and do you feel the documentary followed them?
Originally posted March 27, 2009 at PolicyByBlog
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