Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Fine Line Between Public and Private

What an odd world we live in. A world where Al Roker can give away millions of dollars in donations to charities and we hear about it in brief spurts in the Today Show and we all move on. A marriage hits the skids and we hear about it on every "news" show on every channel incessantly!
Even people who have never watched the TLC program "Jon and Kate Plus 8" know that the Gosselins are divorcing. Last week it was all about the Ensign affair. It would be almost impossible to turn on a TV yesterday or today and not hear the gristly details of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's marital troubles. Even the horrendous mess in Iran faded to the background yesterday as news shows waded in the murk of a troubled marriage. What a bunch of gossips!
I vaguely remember back to the media law class I took in grad school, something about obscenity being an appeal to prurient interest. There is such a fine line between reporting the news and gossip about private lives that appeals to the prurient interest. I think the media have crossed that line.
I can pretty much guarantee that Sanford is horribly embarrassed and truly contrite. Intimate details of his emails with his paramour are fuel for the news shows. His wife kicked him out of the house. He is suffering. When the news programs air all the dirty details, it is rubbing it in and it has elements of obscenity in that the intimate details have no intrinsic news merit aside from appealing to the gossip in each of us. If the media must address this, address it in the context of what it does to his career, how he fits on the long list of others in politics who have been in similar situations, in the arena of hypocrisy that someone who demanded President Clinton's resignation for extramarital affairs has himself had an affair. For those discussions, it is unnecessary to discuss the intimate details.
What is accomplished by revealing the contents of the emails? Is it a desire to further embarrass the people involved? Surely we are better than that!

No comments:

Post a Comment