News organizations are given considerable latitude with regard to what they put on the news, and not without some justification; we don’t want the government interfering in the process. As a result, it is left to the media to decide what to put on television, provided that it is “newsworthy,” even if it, from time to time, infringes upon the individual right to privacy.

But, if the media, for all practical purposes, has the right to invade my personal privacy, what about the teenager who wants to post a video clip of me online? The problem is that just about anything could be “newsworthy” to someone. Is the fact that Mary Jane didn’t wear a bra, in gym class, news? It is to someone.

Thus, we must ask what constitutes news, and who decides? Clearly the government cannot be allowed to determine what constitutes news or to regulate who is allowed to bring it to us. If you want to report the news, you have the freedom to do so. And you have the freedom to report the news as you see it. But, then, we have reached an impasse. Any public occurrence is news, provided that someone had sufficient interest to take note of it and to post it online.

But, at this point, the term “press” no longer applies to an identifiable group, it merely applies to anyone who is interested in a story and wants to tell other people about it. That is, it is no longer possible to distinguish between the press and the general public. The distinction has become meaningless.

Therefore, the press can have no special status or privilege, because it does not signify an identifiable group.

We are, thus, left with the question, do we take away the special rights and privileges of the 4th Estate? Or do we extend them to the general public? Or to put the question another way, do we have a right to privacy or has privacy become a meaningless term?

Without new legislation, the rights and privileges of the 4th Estate will be extended to the general public. After all, if you want the rights and privileges of the 4th Estate, all you have to do is to claim them.

In order to protect our privacy, it will be necessary to curtail the rights of the press. And would it be the end of the world if the rights of the press were curtailed? If the press was not allowed to invade your privacy, to misrepresent your views on national television, or to knock on a mother’s door and tell her that her son was dead, would it be a bad thing?

These abuses go on under the name of freedom of the press, but what do they have to do with bringing us the news? Media outlets need the freedom to seek out the truth, to speak out against the excesses of the Federal government, and so on and so forth, but what this has to do with an individual’s privacy is not altogether clear. Why should the press (or anyone else) have the right to violate your privacy as a private person, and exploit you for political or economic gain.

The rights and special privileges given to the 4th Estate (and in time, to all of us) must be curtailed.


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