The role of journalists is not to be gossip-mongers who report unfounded rumors at the expense of human dignity and respect. Or so I thought until reading "Marianne and Newt: Kaput?" by Lloyd Grove in the Reliable Source [Style, July 15].

Grove reported, if it can be considered reporting, that anonymous sources revealed that former House speaker Newt Gingrich is likely to divorce his wife. Grove could not confirm these rumors, because according to another anonymous source, Gingrich did not want anything to appear in print while his 84-year-old mother-in-law was preparing for cancer surgery.

Putting aside the obvious question of the reliability of unconfirmed rumors from anonymous sources, if this was the reason Gingrich didn't want the "story" in print, why was it in your paper? Does a person lose all rights to privacy and respect when he becomes a public figure? What happened to common human decency and dignity? No value is to be found in embarrassing anyone while he or she is dealing with a painful event, such as a parent's illness, particularly not when that person has held an office that commands at least some measure of respect.

The public does not benefit from knowing these rumors immediately, and their publication only hurts the parties involved. There is a line where feeding "the public's right to know" turns into taking away another human being's individual rights to respect, privacy and dignity. Grove and your paper crossed that line.

-- Shira Schoenberg