Student Activist Uses Hidden Camera, YouTube to Further Anti-Abortion Cause

A college student activist on an anti-abortion crusade has employed new media (and a bit of acting) to spread her eye-opening message across the World (Wide Web).  Lila Rose, an undergraduate at UCLA, is 20 going on 13 . . . at least that’s the age she pretends to be during the half dozen “sting” operations she has carried out at Planned Parenthood clinics in four states.

The gist: Rose goes to a Planned Parenthood with a friend.  She poses as a 13-year-old (sometimes 14) impregnated by a man she tells Planned Parenthood workers is 31, raising a statutory rape red flag warning that workers in certain instances brush aside or discuss how they can get around reporting it.  

How do we know?  Because Rose’s friend is secretly videotaping each “sting” for placement on Rose’s Web site and YouTube.  As The Los Angeles Times notes, “Rose’s strategy- accusing Planned Parenthood of failing to report suspected statutory rapes- is not a new one in the antiabortion trenches. But the new-media twist on the idea has put her front and center of a new generation.”

Rose is not a journalist.  She is an activist.  But the questions that her secret video reporting raises for the new generation of colleg journalists are significant and very, very real.

Earlier this term, I asked my students here in Singapore for predictions on the future of journalism or media, mostly for fun.  One studen wrote that he envisioned a time when all our eyes, via contact lens or laser surgery, would be equipped with tiny cameras able to capture life at a blink, truly making every moment possibly YouTube-worthy. (Scary premise?  It’s closer than we might think.)

While we’re not quite at this eye-level, the video age is reaching evermore constant, surreptitious heights.  The student journalism question: In the era of easy-to-record, one-man-band video reporting, should any academic locations, time periods or types of interactions be kept strictly off-camera or free of other real-time reporting methods such as tweeting or mobile phone photographing?

Of course, Gen-Y journalist extraordinaire Alana Taylor at NYU earned infamy and acclaim early last fall for her real-time Twitter take-down of a professor she felt was out of touch with the new media vibe she was teaching.  The professor’s subsequent, quickly-implemented rule: No blogging, Twittering, texting or other live reporting while in class.

The rule is a warning but certainly not legally binding at universities worldwide (as of yet) and not covering other areas of campus life. The questions then are still ethical in nature.  Do you secretly record the campus security guard sleeping on the job?  How about the professor badmouthing the controversial new curriculum during an open-door office hours chat?  Or how about the school football star partying at a local bar past team curfew?  Or the university president arriving home late one evening arm-in-arm with two women who are clearly not his wife?

The power of video makes these ethical judgment calls especially real.  Words can be dangerous weapons, but the right video can be a veritable atomic bomb to someone or something’s credibility.  (Proof?  How about the recent disgusting Domino’s Pizza clip?)  We are living in a TMZ Twilight Zone in which videos of supposedly private moments are being more regularly accepted as worthy of public purview even when they are journalistically still abhorrent.  Future judgment calls on when to click record without warning  and, more importantly, when to post (and how to edit) the recorded bits will have to be measured ones- balancing the age-old respect of privacy with the awe-inspiring ability of new media to record ever-greater slices of life less obtrusively than ever before.

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2 Responses to “Student Activist Uses Hidden Camera, YouTube to Further Anti-Abortion Cause”
  1. I really like youtube but yeah it can have some bad things on it. Like with copyright and stuff.

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