Privacy vs. Press: Decades of Debate

By Woo, William F. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 3, 1994 | Go to article overview

Privacy vs. Press: Decades of Debate


Woo, William F., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


IN 1890, THE Harvard Law Review published a passionate defense of the right to privacy by Louis D. Brandeis and his law partner, Samuel Warren. Inasmuch as Brandeis went on to be one of the great Supreme Court justices, the article remains holy writ for people who think that the press should be stopped from publishing essentially private information or punished for doing so.

"The press is overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and of decency," the authors wrote, adding that "To satisfy a prurient taste the details of sexual relations are spread broadcast in the columns of daily papers." "Triviality destroys at once robustness of thought and delicacy of feeling," they concluded. "No enthusiasm can flourish, no generous impulse can survive under its blighting influence."

Sound familiar? For many Americans, those sentiments, set down more than a century ago, describe perfectly tabloid television, the supermarket tabloids and, for some, even the mainstream press, such as the paper you are now reading.

The passages quoted here were noted in passing by Supreme Court Justice Byron White in an opinion in 1975. A Georgia man had sued a television station for broadcasting the name of his daughter, who had been raped and murdered. A state law prohibited the press from revealing the names of rape victims. Although the TV reporter got the name from open court records, the father claimed his privacy had been invaded. Georgia's Supreme court agreed.

But the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision. "We are reluctant to embark on a course that would make public records generally available to the media but forbid their publication if offensive to the sensibilities of the supposed reasonable man," White wrote for the majority. ". . . The rule would invite timidity and self-censorship and very likely lead to the suppression of many items that . . . should be made available to the public."

These divergent views, from Brandeis-Warren and White, preface this discussion of the widespread efforts now under way to restrict the press' ability to publish information from public records. The crime bill recently passed by the Senate would outlaw the release of personal information from motor vehicle records. A similar measure is pending in Missouri.

The Missouri General assembly also is considering legislation to impose onerous fees on the dissemination of state records. Those willing or able to pay the cost for obtaining open records could do so; those unable or unwilling would have to do without. In addition, a bill would make it a felony to publish information from closed court records - a form of prior restraint presently unknown anywhere in the United States.

To some extent, such measures are simply attempts to raise money at the expense of the media and other users of information that, by definition, the state already has determined belongs to the public. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Privacy vs. Press: Decades of Debate
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.