The right of privacy is more important than the freedom of the press.

The right of privacy is more important than the freedom of
the press.

Please provide sources on both sides for my middle school debaters.  Thanks!

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There seems to be a sound mix of considered opinion expressed in answer to this question. One thing missing, however, is some historical perspective.

We have had major sports, Hollywood and music celebrities for a very long time now and it is only in recent decades that the proliferation of cameras and their attached strangers prying into minute detail of celebrities' lives has reached the escalated level we countenance today.

Remember, press impropriety was a critical factor in the facts, as they are known, in the tragedy that took the life of Princess Diana (need I say of the UK?). There was a time when the press conformed to a convention of public life and private life. Elizabeth Taylor could always be questioned and photographed on the Red Carpet or when one of her marital scandals caught the public eye, but it was only in recent years that the privacy of her bedroom veranda could be breached and photos of her taken while she was ill and getting fresh air.

This historical perspective puts the lie to the popular adage that "Well, celebrities chose to be in the public eye, so they get what they get." This is a new sentiment that has sprung up after a new invasive press standard sprang up. And it is neither a true nor a just adage.

Another part of the historical perspective is that, up until recent decades, there was a richer respect of formality. While old photo shoots reveal photographers yelling Marilyn Monroe's name to get her to look their direction, these same photo shoots show that photographers and reporters were cut off after a reasonable time and that no one ran after her trying for one more.

Thanks to the audio that now accompanies so much video, we can hear what celebrities' are actually subjected to, like Kate Middleton (before her marriage to Prince William) walking from work to her car amidst a sea of photographers all yelling her name and completely impeding her path, so much so that she has to hesitiate in her stride to avoid a collision with the group. In other words, what is seen now and apparently accepted as "the way it is" is not the way it was until very recently; it is not the way it has always been.

Therefore there should be no difficulty in rolling conventions for press behavior back to a higher civil standard through international regulation so that the press can remember their actual job and responsibilities and so that private moments of public lives can be accorded the respect deserved. I don't think the question here is one of the right to privacy versus the right to a free press. I think the question is one of a megalithic press gotten frighteningly far away from civil respect and human courtesy and civic duty.

What types of conduct by the news media can lead to intrusion claims?

Many different types of conduct can cause someone to file an intrusion/invasion-of- privacy lawsuit. Common examples include trespassing on private property without the owner’s consent, installing hidden cameras or other secret surveillance equipment to monitor someone’s behavior, and harassing a person by continually following him.

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Here is my subjective opinion. Any actions taken by government officials are public business; by definition, they are members of representative government and so their actions are answerable to the electorate. The life of a private individual should not be inferior to freedom of the press except when a specific crime is involved.


"Freedom of the press" is not defined as giving the press authority to investigate and pry into every little thing; it is defined as the freedom of the press to report without undue government influence. On that basis, the press should be all-but required to report honestly on the actions of government officials, since they should not, in an optimal world, be influenced in any way by government interests. The press should also be required to not editorialize in news stories, saving opinion for specifically indicated pages, since it should be entirely objective, without a pony in the race. We can easily see that this is not the case in the real world.

I believe the rights of the private individual trump other freedoms EXCEPT where those individuals try to infringe on the rights of others. No individual should be intruded on by government or the press except if a crime is involved; no individual should construe personal rights to allow infringement on the rights of others, even government workers.

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Certainly, several circumstances exist where right of privacy is more important than freedom of the press.  First, right to privacy outweighs freedom of the press in any case when the press may report on an issue, event, or situation in which their report may result in causing injury or serious harm to the individual; and by harm, I do not mean causing embarrassment, but actually endangering a person or group.  One example that comes to mind is reporting that features children or minors.   Should the media be allowed to publish or release photographs of children or minors? 

In 1979, in Smith v. The Daily Mail, the Supreme Court ruled that "the First Amendment does protect the right of journalists to use the names of minors innewsworthy stories as long as the information was 'lawfully obtained' and 'truthfully reported'" ("Naming Names").   The case mentioned dealt with a West Virginia law that had prosecuted two newspapers for printing the name of a fourteen year-old who had been charged with murdering a fellow student.  The media might release the name of a teen held on murder charges, but many other situations exist in which children may be witnesses for murder trials or victims of sexual assault, and those children's identities should be protected.  With that being said, if such newstories could potentially endanger the children involved, then the media should omit their personal information in order to protect the child's privacy. 

"Naming Names: Identifying Minors." Student Press Law Center. SPLC. web. 18 Nov. 2012.

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This question makes me think about celebrity. The implicity trade-offs that celebrities are expected to agree with create a fascinating grey area of public vs. private. 

When a person agrees to accept fame (and there must be some agreement/cooperation with the process of fame), that person also agrees to give up some amount of privacy. He or she becomes a "public" person. Some privacy has to be given up, it's in the contract, so to speak. 

To what exact extent is this person giving up his privacy though?

That is a difficult question. 

Two online sources relating to this question:

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I must agree with pohnpei. I believe that it depends on what exactly is being discussed. In regards to some privacy, I would tend to suggest that privacy of the individual if far more important than the freedom of the press. Essentially, some things are not meant to be divulged. That said, when these issues come into the public sphere (governmental officials), the people do have a right to know.

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I would argue that this depends on what we are talking about.  In some cases, it is definitely true that freedom of the press is more important.  I would say that it is true when we are talking about things like misconduct on the part of government officials.   But it is not true when we are talking about things that do not have any real bearing on officials’ abilities to do their jobs well.  For example, I think that marital infidelity on the part of public officials is none of our business so long as it is between consenting adults.  But when you start getting things like the Anthony Weiner case where he was sending questionable pictures to people who did not ask for them, it crosses the line and privacy becomes much less important.

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