Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Critical Thinking: J-School Students and Industry Vets Tackle the Tough Questions

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Critical Thinking: J-School Students and Industry Vets Tackle the Tough Questions

Article excerpt

Q: In November, hackers broke in to the computers at Sony and released emails detailing private conversations, celebrity salaries, and other privileged information. The hack was unlawful, but news organizations still published the illegally-obtained material. Was it OK for the press to do this?

A: The press has a duty to serve its audience, to tell the truth, and to expose wrongdoing where people's lives, money, or other interests are in danger.

While people's money goes to Sony, and while there are interesting matters like potential gender pay gaps that were revealed through the leaks, no information published was truly worth covering on its own. Especially at the expense of feeding into the interests of the hackers, who also made threats on American security. It was, however, worth it to cover the hacks as a whole.

As director Aaron Sorkin said in an op-ed for The New York Times, the emails didn't contain information about Sony breaking any laws, or misleading the public, or acting in direct harm to consumers. So why expose people's private information and emails when it's not for some greater good?

Personal emails that were leaked revealed personal biases, and information including salaries and medical information was leaked as well. It's interesting--I'll admit it freely. People's lives intrigue me, and while I've refrained from clicking on most of the more gossipy headlines about the matter, it was active refrain, not a lack of interest, that kept me from reading. And if I had decided to seek out the information, I would have gone to the source directly--after all, why should I read filtered information if I can read it in full somewhere else?

Covering the leaks is entirely newsworthy and entirely important. Mentioning what was leaked is, too. But writing entire stories about Angelina Jolie being called a name and including screenshots of the emails? It feels like celebrity gossip. And in the end, I know it doesn't affect how I'd spend my money--I'm still just as likely to see a Sony movie.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Liz Young, 21

senior, Ohio State University

(Columbus, Ohio)

Young is editor-in-chief of The Lantern, Ohio State's student newspaper. She was campus editor, assistant sports editor and a copy editor prior to becoming editor. …

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