Friday, January 13, 2012
The Expectation of Privacy
The longer I live, the more I ask" what is the expectation of privacy?" When I read about all the people being photographed at a Super Bowl game as part of a security measure, I knew it was miniscule or none. The representative for Super Bowl said," your expectation of privacy ends at your front door." That's about right because we don't have any control over camera location, in our town or anywhere else, for that matter.
I'm left wondering why the discussion about reporting a suicide is still going. It must be an interesting discussion but I'm just as guilty of keeping it alive. I don't know if it has to do with a prominent business man being part of the story or if people are questioning the professionalism of our newspaper or maybe it's a little of both. I agree with the poster who said, "If it's news, report it." It's better to report it than it is to suppress the news and be accused of favoritism. As I said in my post “reporting the news is the best way to stop gossip from spreading."I have been around suicide three times in my life and newspaper coverage was not a concern for any of them, but I admit I don't honestly know how the family felt but we are all assuming, one way or the other.
I was in my teens when a neighbor friend about three years older than me accidentally ran over a small child with his car. After 6 months of lawyers draining his family's life savings, repeated calls from strangers and the child's relatives harassing him, and losing friends, he left for school one day; came back when he knew everyone would be gone, pulled out out a gun, stuck it in his mouth and ended his life. I don't remember if it was reported, but I recall all the cops and the family telling the neighbors exactly what happened. The second suicide happened in South Korea when my sergeant cut his wrist and bled to death because someone mailed a letter to his wife with details of his infidelity.The third and most tragic happened when my little girl's best friend came screaming at our door saying, "my mommy wants me to stay here and wants you to call 9/11 because daddy hurt himself." The story was reported as an accidental shooting, but we later found out after a thorough investigation by the insurance company, that it was suicide. I don't think it's important to me to know all the intricate details but the truth, though embarrassing, should not hurt the family. I think placement, and minimum details should suffice in reporting a suicide.
The original draft of the lawsuit against a major company or person should have a place in our newspaper, and if it goes to court, it should make the front page. The Victoria Advocate has used discretion in the past, and it came back to bite them. I can recall two major stories where out -of -town newspapers reviled much more the Victoria Advocate because of their policies. Fairness is nearly always subjective.
It wasn't long ago when the county was forced to redact our Social Security number from property records that could be viewed by all. Income tax preparers were given personal identification numbers because they got leery because when they signed the income tax return, they were providing their Social Security number to their customers. Many times your Social Security number is the gateway for a lot of your confidential information.
I can remember my mother's probate hearing was held in front of five prisoners waiting to be arraigned and a court full of strangers, as all that private information of the will was read by the judge. I also remember being in a jury pool standing next to a nervous old friend during voir dire. When I asked him what was wrong he said," I'm afraid one of these lawyers is going to ask that if we have ever been convicted of DWI." It was a DWI case. That question was asked, and both of us were selected.He was ashamed of me finding out, but he felt better afterwards because the information was out.
In conclusion, the expectation of privacy is minimal because we have the Patriot Act which allows government law enforcement to check your reading habits and just about anything else in the name of security. We've always had technology that most don't even know about. I read where the FBI used a computer program to access all the credit card transactions that were made in Las Vegas over a weekend, as part of their investigation of a terror threat. They are not supposed to use the evidence gathered in a terror threat against a defendant in another matter but are we sure of that? Do we even care?