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Thinking about Journalism with Superman
Unformatted Document Text:  Thinking about Journalism with Superman 6 deception when he uses his superpowers to stop bad guys and then covers it for the newspaper, in effect secretly reporting on himself, or rather his other self. (In the 1938 debut, his editor assigns him to track Superman, whereupon Clark replies, “Listen, chief, if I can‟t find out anything about this Superman, no one can!”) 32 Popular culture has regularly depicted reporters assuming false identities in the pursuit of stories, but according to the Society of Professional Journalists, real- life deception is allowable only in exceptional cases after there has been a “meaningful, collaborative, and deliberative decision making process,” for which Clark typically has no time or inclination. 33 If he were to apply the Potter Box of ethical reasoning, he perhaps could justify his deceptions according to the utilitarian principle of doing the greatest good for the greatest number (some of the bad guys Superman thwarts are very bad indeed). He also could claim to be upholding loyalties to friends and family who might be endangered if they or others knew who he really was. 34 He even could claim to be loyal to the public—in one Smallville episode, Clark‟s decision to reveal his true identity results in a media circus prohibiting him from helping others (fortunately, he is able to make things right by turning back time). 35 Most often, though, Clark does not engage in rigorous self-reflection regarding the extent to which his secret identity might compromise his moral duty to society. In that, he is little different from journalists who resort to deception out of laziness or as a stunt rather than asking whether the story they are pursuing is profoundly important or if there are any alternative ways of getting it. 36 One might ask why Clark Kent even wants or needs to be a journalist. As of 1938, being close to a news ticker to find out immediately what crises needed remedying made some sense. Seventy years later in Smallville, Clark still was in the Daily Planet newsroom hunched by a police scanner and a computer set to the Metropolis police website. By then, however, he could have just as easily done that from home with no need for a reporting job. He also could have

Authors: Ehrlich, Matthew.
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Thinking about Journalism with Superman 6 
 
 
deception when he uses his superpowers to stop bad guys and then covers it for the newspaper, in 
effect secretly reporting on himself, or rather his other self. (In the 1938 debut, his editor assigns 
him to track Superman, whereupon Clark replies, “Listen, chief, if can‟t find out anything about 
this Supermanno one can!”)
32
 Popular culture has regularly depicted reporters assuming false 
identities in the pursuit of stories, but according to the Society of Professional Journalists, real-
life deception is allowable only in exceptional cases after there has been a “meaningful, 
collaborative, and deliberative decision making process,” for which Clark typically has no time 
or inclination.
33
 If he were to apply the Potter Box of ethical reasoning, he perhaps could justify 
his deceptions according to the utilitarian principle of doing the greatest good for the greatest 
number (some of the bad guys Superman thwarts are very bad indeed). He also could claim to be 
upholding loyalties to friends and family who might be endangered if they or others knew who 
he really was.
34
 He even could claim to be loyal to the public—in one Smallville episode, Clark‟s 
decision to reveal his true identity results in a media circus prohibiting him from helping others 
(fortunately, he is able to make things right by turning back time).
35
 Most often, though, Clark 
does not engage in rigorous self-reflection regarding the extent to which his secret identity might 
compromise his moral duty to society. In that, he is little different from journalists who resort to 
deception out of laziness or as a stunt rather than asking whether the story they are pursuing is 
profoundly important or if there are any alternative ways of getting it.
36
 
 
One might ask why Clark Kent even wants or needs to be a journalist. As of 1938, being 
close to a news ticker to find out immediately what crises needed remedying made some sense. 
Seventy years later in Smallville, Clark still was in the Daily Planet newsroom hunched by a 
police scanner and a computer set to the Metropolis police website. By then, however, he could 
have just as easily done that from home with no need for a reporting job. He also could have 


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