Rick Sanchez: The Naked Truth About Reporters And Our Right To Privacy

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My colleagues in the media are tripping over themselves while hurrying to the aid of the Hollywood starlets who got their accounts hacked and now find themselves explaining or denying their naked selves on videos and photos. The images put online by a hacker now being sought by the FBI leave little to the imagination.

Regardless, the women – all actresses and models – deserve an expectation of privacy with regard to their personal photos. As do we all! And that’s the point. Privacy is guaranteed to all of us, it’s not a privilege reserved only for those who meet the media’s requirements for special status.

It appears that, too often, reporters and media organizations make some type of Orwellian compromise with themselves and those they choose to cover — making some people more equal than others.  

— Rick Sanchez

Fact is, hardly a day goes by when normal citizens caught in embarrassing or circumstantial situations don’t get their mugs on TV in some form or another. Who is watching out for their privacy?

Recently, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had pictures released that may be authentic, but then again maybe not. It shows him in the company of young women in compromising positions. They were pictures obviously meant to hurt and embarrass Jones, who is married and whose relationship with the media is constantly strained in part by his apparent Texas-sized ego. Was that why the media ran with the story without any apparent introspection?

It seems that when it comes to who’s privacy is protected, journalists play by different sets of rules. There’s one for the people they like and quite another for those they don’t.

The list of women whose accounts were hacked reads like a who’s who of Hollywood’s beautiful people.  They’re all there it seems – from Jennifer Lawrence to Kate Upton – from Selena Gomez to Lea Michele. All of them are now explaining why their naked pictures, or pictures of somebody who looks exactly like them, appeared on the eclectic website.

But no respectable media outlet dared publish the hacked photos or videos. Yes, journalists from all over the world are covering the story, but few if any have ventured to publish any of the hacked material. Is it because they feel morally obliged to not do so? Is it because they are afraid of being sued? Or is it something else, something that goes beyond fear and legalities and has more to do with something even more basic? Is it about the media’s penchant for choosing between the good guys and bad guys and covering them differently? And heaven help you if you’re considered the latter.

No, no and no! I am in no way advocating for the dissemination of any material that is illegally obtained or gotten as a direct violation of a person’s right to privacy. What I am saying is that all newsmakers deserve a square shake.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. At least not in the case of those the media deems as unsavory or otherwise not acceptable. Should that matter? No. Does it? Just ask Donald Sterling. He found that reporters are like the popular kids in High School who get there and stay there by choosing who’s not allowed to hang out with them.

Sterling’s words were repulsive. Few of us would argue that what he said wasn’t both offensive and racist. But they were secretly recorded and apparently disseminated by a jilted lover or her allies, whose motivations were questionable at best. While we may not like Sterling or what he said, he deserves the same expectation of privacy afforded to Hollywood starlets.

The Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights reads, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.” It doesn’t exclude people we don’t like, no matter how revolting or insulting their words may sound.

Furthermore, California law “makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation.” It is reason enough to give journalists pause before publishing or disseminating Sterling’s conversations, yet it didn’t stop them. Like birds on a wire, they followed each other until every word Sterling uttered was played and replayed over and over again.

Our laws say that when it comes to privacy we are all equal. But it appears that, too often, reporters and media organizations make some type of Orwellian compromise with themselves and those they choose to cover — making some people more equal than others.