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A moral and ethical minefield: Freedom of the Press versus the individual’s right to privacy. Are they mutually exclusive?

In the current age and society, personal privacy is regarded as an important issue and the invasions of privacy from whichever sources are deemed unethical and can even be brought up to court. Yet ironically, the same society that we live in, according to Andrew Belsey, “thrives on publicity” (Belsey & Chadwick, 1992).

Credits: sibi-cyberdiary.blogspot.com

To begin, there is no precise definition for the term ‘privacy’ because the term itself is broad. There are those who may view ‘privacy’ as “a condition of physical separation”, which is to live a solitude lifestyle and be protected against any intrusions into the private life (Glenn, 2003, p.3). While others see ‘privacy’ as a form of intimacy (Solove, Rotenburg & Schwartz, 2006). Likewise, the idea of liberalism is it guarantees “equal rights to individual freedom to every member of the society” (Rossler & Glasgow, 2005, p.21). This means to say, each individual is entitled to the right to decide how to live his/her own private life and the government has no control over this.

Credits: protect.iu.edu

On the other hand, news media offers information to the public on a regular basis, ranging from political news to crime stories and lifestyle tips. The public has the right know what happens behind the scenes related to governmental issues. The public has the right to know as much as the news media has the responsibility to provide such information to them. The First Amendment permits the press the right to provide information to the public without undue influence from the government. However, it also comes with conditions that inhibit the press from exploiting their rights to free speech.

Yet, the problem with free speech and the public’s right to be informed is that infringement upon an individual’s right to privacy is unavoidable. Hence, to answer the question, the freedom of the press and the person’s right to privacy is not really mutually exclusive. In fact, it is possible for the press to still provide information to the public without invading their privacy. There are however, conditions in which it is actually permissible to invade an individual’s right to privacy for the sake of public interest (Belsey & Chadwick, 1992).

According to them, the first condition is when one becomes a public figure and the loss of privacy is like a package that comes with fame and money; second condition is when the purpose of intrusion is to serve the public interest – for examples, uncovering crimes, defending public health as well as to prevent the public from being misled etc. Ultimately, the main objective of intruding privacy of the public figures for public interest is to ensure that they do their jobs well and make sure that these failings do not affect the performance of their public duties.

The claim that public officers lose their privacy when they come into positions of power within the society in context of sexual misconducts put forth a few arguments. Firstly, it is the claim that any type of intimate pleasure-seeking actions eliminates a person from the public office, plus the fact that a public officer commits adultery is already an offence itself. Secondly, there is the argument that the adulterer is a hypocrite because he is two-faced – pretending that he is a family man but he has an affair in private. Third, the claim that a man who is dishonest to his wife will also delude his country. And lastly, an adulterous public officer is less capable because he is distracted with his affairs (Archard & Kieran, 1998, p.89).

Credits: thegrandnarrative.com

Similarly, as mentioned in the seminar presentation by Vivian and her group, it is not possible for “the freedom of press and and an individual’s right to privacy to co-exist together without any serious consequences” – A great example provided by them is the South Korea’s Na-Young case with Singer Ali. After producing the song meant to comfort and inspire, the media and public ‘attacked’ her for her lack of consideration towards the family because it brought up unhappy memories about it. The press conference that Ali held later on revealed herself as a victim of rape, was also unsuccessful because instead of focusing on her sincerity to apologize, the media dug into her past (her privacy) and went on to cover her rape case instead.

There is however still not enough justification to show that intrusion of privacy is permissible unless one reviews the different sorts of reasons for invading the privacy. Furthermore, everyone is entitled to privacy rights – except for the fact that certain types of people have lesser rights due to their status; although, that should still not be the main reason to invade their privacy.

References

Archard, D., & Kieran, M. (1998). Privacy, the public interest and a purient public / David Archard Media ethics (pp. 82-96). London ; New York Routledge, 1998.

Belsey, A. & Chadwick, R. F. (1992). Ethical issues in journalism and the media. London ; New York: Routledge.

Glenn, R. A. (2003). The right to privacy : rights and liberties under the law. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO.

Rössler, B., & Glasgow, R. D. V. (2005). The value of privacy. Cambridge: Polity.

Solove, D. J., Rotenberg, M., & Schwartz, P. M. (2006). Privacy, information, and technology. New York: Aspen Publishers.

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News Media in Western Democracy – Is it in crisis?

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Credits: www.e-ir.info

First and foremost, according to Lee (2011) in his article Who is to blame for the perceived crisis in democracy? Politicians, the media or the public?, democracy is defined as “the rule of a citizen body with the right to free and fair elections, under the principles of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’” (para. 5).

The media’s role in making sure that there is a free flow of information, ideas and opinions is hence vital in order to sustain a healthy democracy. As discussed in the earlier blog post, the industry has evolved beyond the traditional means (newspapers, radios and television platforms) and is now on to a whole new platform online – social media, or technically any social networks that one can access online through the use of mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices. However, one factor remains unchanged throughout the evolution and that is the role of the news media as a ‘watchdog’.

Credits: www.reputationforward.com

A country will be not be able to develop properly and fully if there are no journalists to scrutinize the actions of government officials, investigate the truths of what the government says to the general public as well as to collect information and facts so that the public will be able to make proper and informed decisions.

Dating way back into history, Lippmann (1927) was the one who coined the phrase ‘manufacture of consent’ and in his view, the media’s role is paint simplicity pictures in the public’s mind in order to make simpler the intricacy of modern life. On the other hand, Bernays (1928) used the power of media to produce the types of stories required in the interests of his clients, for example in the case of American Tobacco which sells cigarettes as a symbol of woman’s emancipation (Tye, 1998).

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Credits: www.mediareform.org.uk

According to Jamieson (1996) who studied advertising in the United States from 1960s – 1980s, he stated that during an electoral phase, 50% of the images broadcasted/printed by the media were directed at the candidates’ images. He realized that this is actually an obsession in contemporary politics with the larger focus on the images of the party and politicians over policy.

Here’s a question: Do the press remember John Prescott as the politician who successfully negotiated the Kyoto treaty, or as an over-weight man suffering from bulimia who once punched someone? (Lee, 2011).

Likewise, to support the above claim by Jamieson, Curran (2002) stated that “the principle democratic role of the media, according to traditional liberal theory, is to act as a check on the state.” (p. 217).

Credits: www.presseurop.eu

Another recent issue on the crisis of news media is on Romanian’s news media. According to Ciobanu (2013), many journalists left their jobs because of pressures as well as conflicting political issues between the different media companies owned by political figures or those who are extremely wealthy. They have neither control nor freedom and independence in what they can write and publish, and aside from that, their salaries were delayed most of the time.

“Last year, journalists at one of Romania’s largest daily newspapers, Jurnalul National, were offered a Faustian bargain: take a 25 percent salary cut or be demoted to a lesser “collaborator” status, and also give up their authorship rights to the paper for the coming 50 years. To add insult to injury, employees of this paper risk losing their jobs if they complain about working conditions or contracts.” (Ciobanu, 2013, para. 1).

Similarly…

“At competitor Adevarul, journalists were told last year to either take a 15 percent cut in pay or move to “temporary collaborator” contracts; in addition, they were forced to commit to non-disclosure agreements regarding the details of how their media company operated, otherwise risking to be fined 8,000 euros. Employees of other dailies have also seen their already small salary payments delayed by months.” (Ciobanu, 2013, para. 2).

It is up to individuals to decide if there is any crisis involved in the news media in western democracy. But if any, I think every party – individual, politician/government, media etc, definitely do play a part in the crisis of the news media. What do you think?

(702 words)

References

Bernays, E. L. (1928). Propaganda. New York: Horace Liveright.

Ciobanu, C. (2013, May 22). ‘Romanian media in crisis’. Open Democracy. Retrieved June 21, 2013, from http://www.opendemocracy.net/claudia-ciobanu/romanian-media-in-crisis

Curran, J. (2002). Media and Power: Communication and Society. Routledge.

Dahlgren, P. (2000). Media, citizenship and civic culture (3rd ed.). In J. Curran & M. Gurevitch (Eds). Journal of Mass Media and Society, pp. 310-328. London: Arnold.

Jamieson, K, H. (1996). Packaging the Presidency: A History and Criticism of Presidential Campaign Advertising. USA: Oxford University Press.

Lee, P. (2011, July 28). ‘Who is to blame for the perceived crisis in democracy? Politicians, the media or the public?’. E-international Relations. Retrieved June 21, 2013, from http://www.e-ir.info/2011/07/28/who-is-to-blame-for-the-perceived-crisis-in-democracy-politicians-the-media-or-the-public/

Lippman, W. (1927). The Phantom Public. New York: Macmillan; 13 Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Schostak, J., & Goodson, I. (2012). What’s wrong with democracy at the moment and why it matters for research and education. Power and Education, 4(3), ISSN 1757-7438.

Tye, L. (1998). The Father of Spin. Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations. New York: Crown Publishers; 2002 published as An Owl Book, Henry Hold and Co.

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Social media and Journalism: Strange bedfellows or made for each other?

Credits: awesocial.com

Along with the arrival of digital era and the popularization of social media, journalism has shifted its course and is experiencing a huge transformation.

But the question is: Are social media and journalism even made for each other?

Credits: davidhallsocialmedia.com

As mentioned by Joyceline and her group mates in the previous seminar presentation, social media refers to the “new media technology that enables and extends our ability to communicate… It allows users to share brief blasts of information to friends and followers from various sources” (Hermida, 2010).

The more popular examples of social media websites that are used to disseminate information are mainly through Twitter, Facebook and microblogs. Hence, through Hermida’s definition, one can see that social media is in fact able to aid journalism in terms of even faster distribution of news. For example, the London RIots:

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Credits: http://www.slideshare.net/UCFadvertising/social-media-and-journalism-10970001

The people made use of the social media – Twitter to disseminate the information to their followers and hence, in a short period of time, information were circulated worldwide. Twitter also has a #hashtags function to allow users to only view tweets regarding a particular tag and in that case, those who search for #londonriots would be able to view tweets and information on the particular issue.

Social media outlets thus allow users to document the news in real-time and reach a massive number of people. Furthermore, people reading the news posts of others will be able to participate in the interaction with the original poster by offering their views on the issue while at the same time, sharing it with others (DeMers, 2013).

Jess Hill, a journalist in The Walkley Magazine discussed about how her usage of social media was able to help her keep track of the happenings in the Middle East uprisings. During one of the confrontations, she actually managed to get her information from one of the activists who was at the scene taking photographs.

“Social media, used systematically, is one of the best verification tools journalists have ever had.” She said (“Go forth and verify it”, p. 13). Therefore, journalists are in fact able to double-check their information that they have gotten from the official sources with the help of thousand other users who post videos and photographs on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Last but not least, another example of how social media aided journalism was during the Iran election protests in June 2009. Mobile phones and other digital technologies were the tools used to capture the street protests against election results and dramatic footage worldwide was uploaded to social media websites as well as mainstream media organization such as CNN and BBC (Newman, 2009).

Through the activities of receiving information from those people onsite of the protest, these mainstream media organizations saw benefits of technologies during the Iran crisis:

1. Extended newsgathering possibilities mainly pictures, but also including leads on stories, usually through live blog reporters engaging directly with networks.

2. A single copy-tasting function for social web activity, saving time elsewhere in the organization and reduced scope for mistakes.

3. An accumulation of credit within communities like Twitter, including a significant number of links back to their websites or broadcasts (Newman, 2009, p.30)

That is not to say social media is perfect, mistakes are still common, especially when journalists do not verify the information or sources that they receive. However, verification is in fact the very first thing that any journalists should do, said Jess Hill (“Go forth and verify it”).

Therefore to conclude this post, it is not to say social media and journalism are made for each other; instead, social media and journalism complement one another and this is how the future of journalism will be.

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References:

DeMers, J. (2013, May 8). How Social Media Is Supporting a Fundamental Shift in Journalism. Huffington Post. Retrieved June 2, 2013,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayson-demers/how-social-media-is-suppo_b_3239076.html

Hermida, A. (2010). Twittering the News. Journalism Practice , 4 (3), 297-308.

Hill, J. (n.d.). Go forth and verify. The Walkley Magazine, p.13.

Newman, N. (2009) The rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism: A study of how newspapers and broadcasters in the UK and US are responding to a wave of participatory social media, and a historic shift in control towards individual consumers. Reuters of Institute for the Study of Journalism, p.1-55. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from, https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/Publications/The_rise_of_social_media_and_its_impact_on_mainstream_journalism.pdf