Friday, January 18, 2008

Privacy of the people

A recent story on CNN told of Circuit Judge John B. Hagler of Cleveland, Tennessee and his recent resignation. His resignation took place after an audiotape on which the judge recorded graphic personal fantasies was found. The tape was handed over to investigators by a past secretary. On the background of the tape the listerner can hear sounds from a person who sounds as though they are being tormented. The press have heard about the tape and are now asking that a copy be released to them. As the article states "the newspaper, The Associated Press and other news organizations had asked that the tape be released, but Hamilton County Chancery Court Judge Frank Brown ruled Thursday that it is not a public record and should be returned to Hagler. The judge justified this ruling by saying "private documents do not become public just because someone provides them to a law enforcement official."

The thing that gets me here is that the media thinks they need a copy of the tape. What would they do with it? I'm sure they would print stories about what was on the tape, stories that would be extremely embarrassing for the past judge. Would it be right for them to do this? I really do not think so. As Judge Brown said, the tape is a private thing. Judge Hagler did not record it for anything dealing with work. No matter how disturbing it may be, it does not necessarily mean that the press needs to report on it. What if they had at some point written a steamy novel on their laptop and it was later found and someone wanted to write a story about that? I wonder if they would feel the same way about private and personal property at that point. I understand it would all make a good newstory, but I don't know that it would be ethical to print it.

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