Respecting privacy in an information society: A journalist's dilemma

Journal of Mass Media Ethics 9 (3):145 – 156 (1994)
Private information about individuals contained in computerized data bases is readily available to journalists, who have a moral obligation to inform the masses as a means of redistributing power in society. The journalist's duty to inform, however, conflicts with the duty to respect the privacy of individuals. Because legislation is largely ineffective in protecting individual privacy, the journalist's moral responsibility assumes additional weight. However, the journalist should not allow the claim of privacy to keep him or her from investigating matters in which the public has a legitimate interest. To determine the extent of legitimate interest, the journalist must be able to distinguish between a right to knowledge and a curious interest in knowing. The journalist is offered a 5-point test to assist in determining when an invasion of privacy via data-base research and subsequent publication is warranted.
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