Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Scene Report

Here is a little more of the tension between journalists and privacy. I am a firm supporter of the first amendment--- in fact my first blog was about first amendment issues. I also was a reporter for a couple of years, and I understand the frustration many writers have when trying to gather information or confirmation. No one in the news biz wants to be simply a stenographer. But as recent developments have shown us, the press is not above blame. And even though I agree with three-fourths of this editorial from the College Heights Herald in Bowling Green, Kentucky, I am not willing to hand off privacy decisions to the fourth estate.

HIPAA isn't entirely bad. It makes an attempt to improve health care in this country, but that comes at the expense of press freedom. Some will undoubtedly disagree, but we feel precedence should go to the First Amendment issue. The right to privacy is implied, but not written.Surely there is a way to reconstruct HIPAA in a way that protects the individual with regard to health insurance while allowing journalists to obtain pertinent information for accurate stories.Journalists may not be licensed, but we take our work seriously. We are more than capable of knowing the difference between using information for the public good and abusing it. Have a little faith in our profession.

I would like to, but then I am reminded of Jayson Blair, Jeff Gannon, and others who have shown that some reporters are no more trustworthy than the people they cover, and unlike a hospital administrator or rogue physician, are already protected from the consequences of whatever they report by that very same first amendment.

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