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Bad idea — trading in child porn for a story.

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  1. Newsgathering
A San Francisco radio host and would-be author has been charged with distributing child pornography, but he says he was…

A San Francisco radio host and would-be author has been charged with distributing child pornography, but he says he was doing research for a book on the subject. That may be, but journalists need to know that courts are generally not going to recognize the argument that the First Amendment right to gather and report the news includes the right to break the law in doing so.

We believe that there are definitely times when such a defense should be available. If a newsworthy incident occurs on private property and a journalist has to technically trespass to cover the story, the reporter should be able to cover the story without fear of arrest. The issue comes down to whether the reporter is actually committing some harmful conduct that a law is meant to provide protection from. Trespassing or other technical violations of law are the easy questions; the hard ones concern the things reporters need to do to when covering a more controversial topic, such as child porn or drug dealing. Most reporters would not, however, try to sell drugs on a street corner in order to gain credibility and contacts with drug dealers, and those trying to infiltrate the world of child porn are better off resisting the temptation to actually join the traders as well.