Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach

By Christopher Meyers | Go to book overview

15
Understanding and
Respecting Privacy

Candace Cummins Gauthier

This essay will address the practical conflicts for journalists, their employers, the owners of news organizations, and the public regarding issues of privacy in reporting the news. Privacy will be understood, here, as control over access to oneself and to certain kinds of information about oneself. First, the relevant interests of the public, journalists, and news organizations will be discussed. Then, building on Deni Elliott and David Ozar (chap. 1 in this volume), ethical principles will be recommended for considering, discussing, and resolving issues of privacy in journalism. Finally, these principles will be applied to news stories and images that invade the privacy of public officials, celebrities, and ordinary citizens.


Relevant Interests to Be Balanced

There are several interests to be balanced in the consideration of privacy and the practice of journalism. The first three are interests held by all individuals in (1) maintaining their privacy, (2) respecting the privacy of others, and (3) obtaining information about the world. The remaining four are interests specific to journalists and the organizations for which they work: (1) producing appealing stories, (2) meeting their professional moral standards, (3) maintaining the trust of the public, and (4) sustaining a profitable business.


The Interests of Individuals in Relation to Privacy

Maintaining our privacy is a matter of control over access to us and to certain kinds of information about us. Others could gain access to us through seeing

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