ERIC Number: ED207075
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1981-Apr
Journalism, Privacy, and Embarrassing Facts: A Critical Review of the Newsworthiness Defense.
Glasser, Theodore L.
Noting that while much has been said about privacy and the defense of newsworthiness in legal cases involving the unauthorized publication of true but embarrassing facts, this paper points out that there appear to be only three broadly distinguishable--and largely disparate--theories of privacy and newsworthiness, none of them in circulation long enough to have influenced the courts. In an effort to examine these theories critically, the paper begins with a brief overview of the conflict between privacy and a free press, with an emphasis on the legal and moral tension created by an individual's desire to conceal embarrassing facts and the journalist's proclivity to disclose them. The next sections of the paper delineate the three existing theories of newsworthiness, which include (1) the doctrine of Supreme Court Justices Hugo Black and William O. Douglas, giving almost exclusive weight to First Amendment concerns; (2) Thomas Emerson's definitional approach, which calls for full protection of privacy, even when privacy runs counter to a free press; and (3) the standard set forth by Alexander Meikeljohn, refined by Edward Bloustein and operationalized by Randall Bezanson, which defines newsworthiness in terms of the purpose of self-government. The concluding section offers an appraisal of each theory in terms of its contribution to legal theory and, more pragmatically, each theory's contribution to a workable compromise between newsworthiness and invasion of privacy. (RL)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Communication Association (Pittsburgh, PA, April 24-26, 1981).