Journalism and the Debate over Privacy

Journalism and the Debate over Privacy

Journalism and the Debate over Privacy

Journalism and the Debate over Privacy

Synopsis

Journalism and the Debate Over Privacy situates the discussion of issues of privacy in the landscape of professional journalism. Privacy problems present the widest gap between what journalism ethics suggest and what the law allows. This edited volume examines these problems in the context of both free expression theory and newsroom practice. Including essays by some of the country's foremost First Amendment scholars, the volume starts off in Part I with an examination of privacy in theoretical terms, intended to start the reader thinking broadly about conceptual problems in discussions about journalism and privacy. Part II builds on the theoretical underpinnings and looks at privacy problems as they are experienced by working journalists. This volume features discussion of: privacy as a socially-constructed right-a moving target that changes with technology, social norms, national experience, and journalistic practice; privacy as both a property and a commercial right; privacy in terms of journalism ethics and journalistic codes; privacy as an attribute of press independence from government; and Bartnicki v. Vopper and its implications for journalism. With this volume, editor Craig L. LaMay provides a concise, intellectually provocative overview of a topic that is of growing importance to journalists, both legally and ethically. The work is intended for scholars and advanced students in communication law, ethics, and First Amendment rights, and is also appropriate for First Amendment and media law classes in law schools.

Excerpt

In this chapter I examine two strains of American privacy law in relation to First Amendment rights of free speech and press. the first involves claims of “intrusion. ” the second involves claims of “revelation. ” For the purposes of this chapter, when I discuss intrusion-style privacy claims I do not intend to limit the analysis to the common-law tort of intrusion, but rather mean to include the broad family of “intrusion-related” torts and crimes. Some of these are the product of the common law and some were created by statute, but all in one way or another seek to impose liability for invasive conduct of some kind, divorced from any information that might have been gathered and subsequently disseminated as a result of the invasion. When used against the media, these are commonly described as “news-gathering torts, ” in the sense that they focus on actions antecedent to any publication or broadcast of material. “Revelation” privacy claims may similarly involve tort or criminal law actions broader than the common-law tort of “publication of private facts, ” although that tort is probably the legal doctrine most famously associated with the revelation strain of privacy.

I begin with the supposition that there is a striking imbalance in the formal legal doctrines applicable to intrusion and revelation privacy claims. the law is quite generous and sympathetic to plaintiffs who bring intrusion claims. Conversely, legal doctrine is curmudgeonly and hostile to revelation claims. To make the same point from the mirror perspective of the First Amendment, the law is inhospitable to the introduction of free speech or free press defenses to intrusion, yet it is inviting, virtually to the point of slavish submission, to the free speech and free press defenses to revelation.

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