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A presentation by,

S Subhakeerthana V Sandhya V Maathanghi V Lakshmi (III Journalism)


between a person's right to privacy and the public's right to know about that person's life What it means to be a public figure and what rights journalist have to examine their lives and the lives of their families. Examining the rights of people to grieve in private

A journalist should let people know what is happening and decision making lies with people to believe it or not The right of society to be informed conflicts with the right of individuals to privacy Concern for the individual must be balanced with your responsibility to society as a whole.

When there is a conflict between the public's right to know and the individual's right to privacy, the first thing you should do is ask yourself two questions: Will I intrude on a person's private life by the way I collect the news? Will I intrude on people's private life by publishing or broadcasting the story? It is possible to justify publishing about a person's private life in the public interest, even though you cannot justify upsetting them in the way you gather the news

Is difficult to separate a person's private life from their public role Politicians are the best examples People elect politicians to office for who they are, not just for their skills in a particular job A politician's career depends on meeting lots of people and being popular with voters. Success of cinema people lies on the image they project to the public. Many deliberately blur the distinction between their on-screen and off-screen personalities to achieve success

There is a difference between the one who enters public arena voluntarily and by force/circumstance. For e.g. A businessman who holds a press conference to announce some new moneymaking project is seeking public attention; the airline hostess who suddenly discovers she has contracted a rare tropical disease has simply been thrust into the news against her will.

You could justify probing into both the public and private finances of the businessman. You cannot justify digging up scandalous details of the flight attendant's private life where it does not have any relevance to the story of the disease. There is also the question of who is a public figure? Journalists would accept it is their duty to examine the whole life of someone, but often it is wrong to do so

It is difficult to put hereditary leaders such as royalty in the class Although they are obviously public figures, they did not put themselves forward for office in the same way as politicians. Neither do they depend on being liked by the public, although most of them probably want to be.

The answer varies between different societies and different hereditary leaders
In some societies, royalty is treated almost like public property, with the media feeling that they can comment on anything they do, in public or in private. In other societies, it is not acceptable to criticise royalty at all, even in their public lives

Does your society believe that hereditary leaders should be questioned or criticised? If it does, how far can the media go in to criticism? Can you criticise their public performance in office? Can you examine even their most private lives? Do you as a journalist have the right to criticise their behaviour under special circumstances, even if the tradition is not to question them? If they accept public funds, can they be criticised for corruption? How bad must their behaviour be before you should report on it?

The public has the right to know any facts which reveal special aspects of their character, especially faults Public figures are responsible to set a modern tone to the society. So they must be clean and transparent The media should constantly examine the lives of public figures with responsibility

News must be interesting, but we cannot expect always to find an educational aspect of every story we cover. Many people read newspapers and listen to the radio simply to know what is happening in the world around them, whether or not it will make them better people. Theres a difference between things which the public has a right to know and those which individuals have a right to keep private. It is not easy either to define or maintain a balance, but you have to!

Public figures have right to relax from the eyes of public. The public does have the right to question their methods of relaxation when public figures use their position to gain preferential treatment Entertainers make a plea for special treatment as public figures

They argue that, as they are not elected to positions of public trust, their off-stage or off-screen lives are nobody's business but their own. They say that they play a fantasy role in a movie or a television show, and their real lives are private. For journalists, the issue centres on whether public figures use publicity to promote a good image of themselves to the public. If they do, they cannot claim that the media should also not expose their bad qualities.

If they use the media to make money, they cannot be surprised when the media use their private lives to sell newspapers. The more that people use the media machine, the more they can expect to be used by it.

How far should the families of public figures be the subject of media scrutiny? You are often able to make judgments based on your own perception of what is news for your readers or listeners in particular cases. For example, would you cover any or all of the following stories? A film star's son commits suicide. The Police Minister's wife is caught stealing. The council surveyor's daughter is on a drink-driving charge. We stress that there is no single right or wrong answer, but these are the kinds of questions you should discuss with colleagues, taking into account all relevant factors.

Journos need to be sensitive during certain times in peoples lives The media should respect the privacy of even the most prominent public figure if a loved one dies. In fact, tragic deaths are often the kind of story your readers or listeners will be interested in. However, you should approach all tragedies with sensitivity and even try to find alternative sources of information

Some people actually welcome the opportunity to talk to the media at such times, either because it is an emotional release or because they believe that their loved one was important enough for their death to be recorded in the media. The sobs and gasps should not be included simply for the emotional effect. They must be part of the way your interview is telling the story. People should be allowed to grieve in their own way and we should not judge them at such times

The same concept applies to journalists as well If you believe you have the right to inform the public and you do it responsibly, you can argue for the same treatment for your private life. if you overstep those boundaries to sell more papers or attract more viewers or listeners, you have no right to argue for special treatment if others overstep the same boundaries to examine your private life

The more journalists put their own personality into their presentation of the news, the more they can expect others (especially other journalists) to focus attention on their personalities, both public and private The person who simply and objectively reads the news bulletins can expect to enjoy a private life; the one who presents a television chat show or writes a personal comment column in a newspaper must accept the risks associated with fame.

You have a right to report on the public life of public figures You can report on the private life of public figures if it tells something about their character which might affect their public duty they are responsible for public assets their private misdeeds could affect the public good You have no right to intrude on a person's private life where there is no public benefit