Segments in this Video

Ethics of Privacy for Public Figures: Introduction (03:31)


Fred W. Friendly introduces the topic of politics, privacy and the press. View highlights from a seminar on election issues. A hypothetical senator, Joe Valentine, has decided to seek the presidency; Professor Charles Nesson moderates.

Paparazzi Scenario (01:44)

Valentine attends a benefit for the homeless; a photo depicts him seated next to a starlet. New York Daily News columnist Liz Smith would run it without implications, particularly if he is married.

Attempt to Spread Gossip (03:33)

Miami Herald political editor Tom Fiedler gets a tip that Valentine is having an affair with Debbie Spice, and provides a meeting place. Fiedler needs more information. In a different scenario, Valentine will meet his ex-girlfriend Eleanor Truelove. Preexisting rumors would interest Fiedler.

Reporting Instincts (02:02)

ABC anchorman Peter Jennings believes Fiedler would send a reporter to witness Valentine's affair. Christian Science editor Katherine Fanning would wait for the story to develop. New York Times correspondent R. W. Apple says it depends on Gary Hart's case.

Reckless Candidate Behavior (03:39)

ABC media analyst Jeff Greenfield argues that Valentine's decision to spend a non-working night with a woman disqualifies him for the presidency. Smith says the National Enquirer will expose him anyway. Baltimore Sun Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston would spy on him.

Evoking the Golden Rule (01:58)

Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson reprimands reporters for wanting to spy on Valentine. Jennings argues that most journalists would not behave like paparazzi, but Hart set the standard for how to treat candidates. Washington Post reporter Paul Taylor advocates judging each situation individually.

Judging a Political Candidacy Context (03:05)

Geraldine Ferraro believes Valentine's long-term extramarital affair with a prominent Washington woman is not news. Taylor would still print the story. Ferraro and Greenfield disagree on whether Valentine should quit the campaign. Greenfield believes Americans can decide for themselves.

In Support of Media Surveillance (04:30)

Denniston would not disguise himself to spy on Valentine, for practical rather than moral reasons. However, he would secure vantage points to see within the building. CBS News correspondent Mike Wallace would knock on the door with cameras rolling.

A Ruined Candidate (03:05)

Greenfield would advise Valentine to hide Spice from reporters in the adjoining condo and prepare a campaign withdrawal statement. U.N. representative Jeane J. Kirkpatrick agrees; high level public officials have no privacy rights.

Journalists as Public Figures (03:03)

Simpson proposes Valentine take revenge on the reporter or newspaper who exposed his affair. General William C. Westmoreland argues for dealing with Valentine's moral issues by pressuring him to leave politics.

Changed Privacy Rules (02:30)

American Enterprise Institute scholar Suzanne Garment argues that the media is not to blame for Valentine's demise. Ferraro believes Valentine should have heeded political advisors. Graham says moral character has always been a deciding factor in choosing candidates.

Facing Reporters (03:06)

Valentine decides not to withdraw from candidacy yet. Taylor would ask whether he is having an affair. Denniston would threaten to run the story if he did not deny it. Denniston argues that media communication has no code of ethics.

Compassion in Reporting (02:24)

Simpson argues that journalists should have a sense of morality. Denniston believes journalists have an obligation to provide information on people in power. Feidler says they are sensitive to human feelings when exposing politicians.

Editor's Judgment Call (02:40)

Fanning would wait for concrete evidence before publishing Valentine's affair, and ensure its relevance to the public interest. Ferraro would consider its effect on the political system, and believes a candidate's past life and family are irrelevant.

First Amendment (03:16)

Ferraro argues that the press has a responsibility, as well as a right, to exercise ethical judgment. Apple says news companies already address privacy issues. Kirkpatrick comments on dehumanizing candidates and media surveillance, and calls for journalist compassion.

Ethical Line in Journalism (04:08)

Michael March offers Fanning photos of Valentine swimming with a young woman; Fanning says they only have titillation value and do not prove wrongdoing. Denniston would not pay for information; Wallace would. Jennings would buy them to keep them from competitors.

Journalism Ethical Standards (02:00)

Garment argues that journalism is a trade open to societal influence. Graham says there are no universal principles; each news company sets its own standards. She is concerned that poor press behavior may lead to restricted freedoms.

Robert Bork Hearings (04:11)

Ferraro believes the press has a responsibility with its first amendment rights. Graham tries to confine publication of private issues to those affecting public performance. Simpson discusses how a reporter violated Justice Bork’s privacy by publishing his video rentals.

Ethics of Privacy for Public Figures: Conclusion (01:07)

In a democracy, the public assumes a right to know about those holding high office. However, as individuals, we have a right to privacy. Friendly summarizes the series.

Credits: Politics, Privacy, and the Press (00:46)

Credits: Politics, Privacy, and the Press

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Politics, Privacy, and the Press

Part of the Series : Ethics in America
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



What conduct on the part of a public official is relevant to "the public's right to know?" Panelists from both sides, including Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Peter Jennings, Mike Wallace, and Geraldine Ferraro, debate this issue.

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL160439

Copyright date: ©1989

Closed Captioned

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