I chose to do my research paper on privacy rights vs. public's right to know. I chose three cases that all are connected to this issue but in very different aspects. Case Study I
Ethical issue involved: The ethical issue involved is privacy rights vs. public's right to know. The problem is this case is that a reporter is sent to do what she feels is invading someone's privacy rights and her boss is trying to force her to doing this.
Background of case: The case involves the reporter for the Detroit Free Press, Jennifer Holmes. It all started on May 17, 1987 when two Iraqi missiles tore into the USS Stark in the Persian Gulf. Her assignment was to sit with the family of 20-year-old Kelly Robert Quick, an electronics technician, who was one of the eight Michigan sailors unaccounted for during that explosion. Kelly's father's home was near Flint, which is 75 miles northwest of Detroit. This is where the most important facts start to come in that have an ethical bearing attached to them, along with the external and internal factors. It all started with a phone call Holmes made to Robert Quick (father) to ask if she could drive out to visit while he waited on the word of his son being alive or not. He said "No, please" to her (Holmes). He went on to say that he hadn't slept and had spent all day yesterday giving interviews and that he didn't have anything left to give (Holmes). He couldn't control his crying and he said this apologetically. Jennifer Holmes assured him that she understood and then told him "God bless" (Holmes). Immediately when telling her assistant city editor Andrea Ford what had happened she got a "You fool or you idiot, of course he said that." Ford told Holmes that you never give them advance warning you just have to take them by surprise. This is when a very important ethical situation comes in and also where having the different profession would make a difference on which side of the issue that a person would stand on. Andrea continued to lecture Holmes that her job is not to concern herself with what the sources want or don't want. Her job is to get the story (Holmes). Jennifer let the pressure of her job get to her over what she felt like she should do ethically and went to Mr. Quick's house. He finally let her in and was giving her his story. She didn't understand this. She thought why are people so kind to vultures? In 11 years as a reporter, I never failed to be amazed when people would react so politely to an intrusion that warranted an "It's none of your business or, at the very least, "I'm sorry but that's personal," You can either leave now on your own or I'll have you drug out of town behind a
cement truck" (Holmes). As you can see the parties involved are the reporter, editor and the family of the victim. The reporter has loyalties to the newspaper and to her personal ethical beliefs. The editor has the same loyalties. The family of the victim in this situation only has loyalties to there family. The key part of the story comes when the household received a phone call from Andrea wanting to speak with Jennifer. She was demanding to know why she hadn't called in her story yet, deadline was approaching and wanted to know if she had enough notes for her story and asked her to begin dictating them over the phone right then (Holmes). Jennifer responded with "I cannot tie up the family's phone at a time like this." Andrea responded, "Why not, don't they know he's dead?" The Free Press apparently knew that Kelly Quick was dead and the family had not heard the news yet (Holmes). Holmes was not to tell the news and ordered to stay there until the officers got there to inform them of the news. She was told this was the big story and she could not miss it. Holmes responded to Andrea with "It is time for me to leave the Quick household; I will call in my notes from a pay phone." She warned her that she was not to leave unless she was guaranteed to get back in...
Bibliography: Holmes, Jennifer. (1989, September). Intruding on Grief. FineLine: The Newsletter on Journalism Ethics, vol. 1, no. 6, p. 2,5. http://www.journalism.indiana.edu/gallery/Ethics/griefint.html
Kredens, Julie. (1991, January). Of life and death. FineLine: The Newsletter on Journalism Ethics, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 3. http://www.journalism.indiana.edu/gallery/Ethics/oflife.html
Smith, Timothy. (1989, October). For personal reason. FineLine: The Newsletter on Journalism Ethics, vol. 1, no. 7, p. 4. http://www.journalism.inidiana.edu/gallery/Ethics/persreas.html
Neville, R.C. (1980). Various meaning of privacy: A philosophical analysis. Media Ethics(Fifth Edition) p. 134.
Patterson, Philip & Wilkins, Lee. (2005). Media Ethics: Issues and Cases (Fifth Edition) pages 134, 135
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