Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Great Dilemma for News Bureaus

So let’s say you are in Libya and just kind of stumble across a personal journal of some victim of an assassination.   What do you do?
  1. Return it to the family, respecting the owners and family’s right to privacy?
  2. Make copies and report on its contents as an unnamed source?
  3. Make copies, report on it, and return it to the family?

Obviously choice 1 can’t be right, it’s not your fault the victim was careless with the journal and you do have a job to do.
Choice 2 might be okay, but what about the family?  Don’t they have a right to see what their son, father, and brother was thinking? Of course they do!  By golly that leaves you only one choice.
Actually, in this case I agree with the CNN approach.  The question of how much right the family has to suppress the contents of the journal is a tough one, but since we are dealing with a significant news story on a personal representative of the President, I think the value of the insight outweighs the concerns for privacy.   This is one of those tough call issues that has to be made on a case by case basis.
Now that the administration is condemning their approach you have to ask why?  Is it really out of respect for the families wishes or some other self interest?

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