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Is investigative journalism seen as an invasion of privacy?

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Responsible investigative journalism sometimes might require what some would see as an invasion of privacy, but that is not universally or indeed frequently the case.

Imagine a story which begins with a journalist seeing rumors on social media that a manufacturer is selling adulterated medications. The journalist might interview people who made the allegations and buy samples of the medication from various stores and have it tested in a laboratory. The journalist might interview current and past employees of the manufacturer in hope of uncovering more details. None of the actions would invade anyone's privacy, and if the manufacturer was guilty, they might do a valuable service by saving lives.

A story concerning a corrupt politician might require looking for more detailed personal information, including talking with colleagues, friends, and families and trying to obtain bank and tax records. While this may be more intrusive, professional journalists from the mainstream media work closely with newspaper legal departments and are bound by strict codes of ethics.

The area most prone to invasion of privacy issues is not genuine investigative journalism but is rather tabloids, scandal sheets, and celebrity journalism. The paparazzi who search for sensational photographs and personal scandals about celebrities are not investigative journalists. They do not do perform careful research in service of bringing important truths to light; they simply earn money pandering to an audience curious about celebrities.

Different countries have different legal definitions of the right to privacy. Usually one can reasonably expect privacy in one's own home but not in public, and public figures have somewhat different expectations than private citizens.

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