This morning I engaged in a public conversation around the notion that journalists should not be exempt from the actions they often employ in news gathering. I'm not suggesting that threatening journalists is OK. I am only questioning where the line between public and private is — and where we want it to be.
As a "public figure" I know all too well the distress that comes with worrying about the safety of loved ones while someone is digging up dirt on you, because I experience it every day! I don't think it's OK for a journalist to feel this nor do I think it's OK for a public figure to feel this. I also don't think that it's OK for people to be worried about being publicly scorned for privately having a bad idea. I've thought to myself 100 times: "I'd love to hire someone to get dirt on that guy and publish it… Just so he knows how it feels." Have I ever followed through? No. Will I? No. Do I support someone who does? No! Because if I did I'd be just like the people who invade my private life all the time. But I don't think the guy did something wrong by thinking it, or even saying it, in what he considered to be a private forum. We have to stop thought-policing each other. If we aren't allowed to have bad ideas we will never have the room to have a good one.
Where is the line for "the public's right to know?" Is it just public companies, politicians, celebs, families of celebs, and employees of successful private companies who are fair game, while well-known journalists are off-limits?
I believe that journalism is a core component of our democracy. I do not think journalists should be bullied, but I do think that with the vast shift of media dynamics that has taken place since the birth of social media we need to consider and revisit the boundaries of what we believe to be ethical in news gathering. In a world where everyone has a camera, everyone has a recorder, everyone has a publishing platform, who is a journalist and who is not? What's on the record and what's off? Maybe we should think about what freedom of the press really is, and what constitutes an invasion of privacy, hearsay, or outright slander?
Now that I've posted this on my media platform, am I a journalist?