I’m never surprised when a college professor embraces state censorship. Still, Rick Karcher makes a particularly laughable attempt. He considers it a violation of “journalistic ethics” for the Associated Press to report on, um, government activity:
The Associated Press published a story yesterday on a very tragic, sensitive and private matter involving the death of a famous professional athlete’s mother. The report not only discusses details surrounding the death, but also personal information about the player’s relationship with his mother.
The issue here is not whether the facts of this publication are untrue. The disclosure of private facts tort claim subjects the press to liability for the publication of truthful private matters that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and that are not of legitimate public concern. In many respects, we as a society have become brainwashed into thinking that the press has a constitutional privilege to publish whatever truthful matters it wants, especially when the matter involves a public figure.
Now, you may be wondering why I referred to “government activity.” The report in question — and, yes, I’m violating journalistic ethics by providing a link — deals with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees*, whose mother died recently. The Associated Press reported that the Grand County coroner ruled Mina Brees’ death a suicide. How Karcher thinks it falls outside the “constitutional privilege” of the press to publish a report made by a government official is just beyond my understanding.
Karcher says it’s the role of government to establish standards of “newsworthiness” that would censor even truthful speech that experts like him deem too private for public consumption:
There is a very tenuous connection between the details surrounding the death of a player’s mother and what makes the player a public figure, that being his status as a professional athlete. This publication, having no social value and intruding into an extremely tragic, private and sensitive personal matter, turns journalism ethics standards on its head.
Karcher later comments that since journalists cannot be trusted to uphold his standard of “social value,” “external enforcement is (unfortunately) necessary.” Well that settles the matter.
*I’d note that Mr. Brees is a key employee of an organization that receives millions in state subsidies, which might strengthen the “nexus” that Professor Karcher desperately seeks. Of course it’s irrelevant, since one need not establish such a nexus to exercise his or her right to speak without fear of state censorship.