Is it ever OK to break the law in pursuit of a news story?
That's a question being debated after a reporter for Valley News Live, a television station in Fargo, recently entered several Fargo-area schools without checking in with school officials. In Minnesota, it's the law that visitors must sign in upon entering a school. In Fargo and West Fargo, checking in at a school office is mandated by ordinances. Police in all three cities are investigating, and the actions of reporter Mellaney Moore could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
Officials at the television station stand behind their story and their reporter, saying that the story pointed out lapses in school security. They also say they didn't know it was illegal to enter a school without first checking in at the office. We agree that the story did shed some light on security issues, but as always, ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse. Journalists are subject to the same laws as everyone else.
School security is certainly a worthy topic in schools all across the country and across North Dakota, but there are better ways to bring attention to the issue than supposedly unknowingly breaking a law or an ordinance in the name of journalism. If the objective of the station was to unnecessarily make itself part of the issue it was covering, it has succeeded. The station and its reporter showed a troubling lack of common sense and lack of respect for the law in wandering around a public school with a hidden camera.