Sunday, July 15, 2007

is life on the record?

Don't get caught unprepared before you stride into public life -- that's part of our credo. But what if you're publicized without your knowledge or consent, especially by a blogger? The answer's unclear, but likely to happen for many, as no ground rules exist in this uncharted territory for new media.

Asking "is life on the record?" and "what are the ground rules of life?" today is columnist David Ignatius in this Washington Post opinion article. We hear and read lots of articles by journalists skeptical of -- and fearing competition from -- bloggers. But here Ignatius makes a powerful case that might give pause to even the least newsworthy citizen. Here's part of his closing argument:
Journalists habitually argue for broad disclosure of information, bolstering our case with such bromides as "sunlight is the best disinfectant." But major newspapers recognize that people have privacy rights, too. Newsroom lawyers remind journalists that they can be sued for "public disclosure of private facts" in certain circumstances and that newspapers shouldn't publish information about private citizens that would be "highly offensive to a reasonable person" unless the information is independently newsworthy or the subject consents.

Similar standards about privacy should be shared by all the modern varieties of "journalist" -- reporters, bloggers, Facebook posters and the rest.
In a deft touch, Ignatius considers the likes of you and me, as well as those of celebrities, who also, he argues, deserve some privacy. That is, unless they leave their microphones on, as two presidential candidates did; read the story here.

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