On a daily basis, and in ways that the general public does not even recognize, our right to privacy is disappearing rapidly. Our political leaders allow companies such as Google and Facebook to continually infringe on this right. Both of those companies serve as data mines, selling information about their users. Facebook, behind a mask of individual privacy settings, has almost single-handedly killed privacy; founder Mark Zuckerberg has actually stated, according to reports, that he doesn’t believe in privacy. The government needs to get back to its roots: protecting the privacy of its citizens while encouraging the individual freedoms on which this country was founded.
Freedom of the press and the right to privacy do not have to be combatants. The people have tasked members of the news media with the duty and the responsibility to provide information. As publishers, we must find the boundary, push it, but refuse to cross it — never selling out our readers and never publishing what we cannot verify.
Rupert Murdoch gets caught.
If the allegations are true, Murdoch did not just cross the line — he erased it. By doing so, he has placed all of us who enjoy freedom of the press at grave risk. Only when our readership trusts us to provide material acquired honestly can a free press continue to be a driving force in preserving our democracy. If Murdoch refuses to take his responsibility as a publisher seriously, he threatens not only Americans’ right to privacy, but also our basic freedoms.
After the Watergate scandal, a new generation of reporters striving for raw, honest journalism was born. Now, Murdoch’s actions have sent us in the opposite direction. Will his alleged machinations further degrade what little faith people have in what they read in their newspapers? The print industry is already suffering economically, and any more deterioration brings newspapers and magazines closer to extinction.
Members of the news media walk a fine line between fully leveraging freedom of the press and respecting their responsibilities to the public. It is a difficult balancing act. Murdoch seems to have fallen off the tightrope. Let’s just hope he doesn’t take all of us down with him.
Larry Flynt is the chief executive and owner of Larry Flynt Publications and Flynt Management Group, and the publisher of Hustler magazine.
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