“We spent hours and hours talking about the ethics of this,” said reporter Ben Montgomery, who first encountered Hughes when the postal worker called him at work and told him his plans. “Ultimately, we felt comfortable that he was on the authorities’ radar and that he was not homicidal or suicidal. He had his plan down to a T. Is it our job to call attention to it?”
Actually, yes, say media ethicists.
“A news organization should be extremely knowledgeable of the potential harm” a stunt like this could cause, said Edward Wasserman, dean of the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. “I really question their judgment. There is no end of the ways this could have gone wrong.”