A journalist should, first and foremost, hold their subject to account. That should never involve duping the subject. A reporter must be transparent about their intentions and treat the subject fairly. The goal is to ultimately earn the subject's trust.
For marginalized subjects who struggle with unfair media representations, that doesn't always come easily. It’s a dilemma I experienced last summer when reporting on Black Lives Matter Toronto. When I first approached the group, I could sense their hesitance. I was a white reporter coming from a paper that caters to a largely white upper-class audience. BLM's wariness was legitimate.
In my interview request, I tried to be as forthright as possible. I outlined the questions I sought to answer. I acknowledged the gaps in our readership’s understanding of racial issues and asked for their help in cultivating that awareness.
My editor warned me that BLM would dismiss my interview request. But after my email, the group agreed to talk. I met one of their members in a park, and we had a frank and eye-opening conversation. As we wrapped up, the member mentioned it was one of the best interviews she had done in recent memory.
That felt like a small victory. I knew that I was seeing the issues of black people through my purple glasses (drawing on the color theory reference from our last class). But the important thing was that I had listened closely and made an honest attempt in gaining the member's trust.