By: Sarah LeBlanc
The problem of invading an individual’s privacy is one journalists often face in pursuit of a story. Luckily, the University of Iowa has compiled a list of the ways the right to privacy is violated so journalists know what to avoid.
- Intruding into seclusion or solitude.
- Publicly disclosing private, embarrassing and irrelevant facts.
- Placing someone in a false light.
- Misappropriating someone’s name or image for personal advantage.
To avoid overstepping these lines, journalists should always contact sources to confirm information found online before printing and distributing their opinion. Unfortunately, not everyone follows these practices.
Newsbios, a site created in 1987 by Dean Rotbart, a former Pulitzer Prize-nominated Wall Street Journal columnist, compiles and sells data gathered on journalists from public sources but explicitly promises never to contact journalists directly. This material is then available for sale to future employers or to give executives the opportunity to research and prepare for interviews based on the information and speculations gathered by the site.
The information isn’t cheap. Depending on how fast you need the dossier, prices range from $200-$425.
Labeling itself as “reputation insurance,” Newsbios promises up-to-date reports including anything they find that is not included in a journalist’s authorized resume or biography. Dossiers contain information regarding family relations, social media posts, and any biases reflected in the personal activities of journalists.
New York Times reporter Natasha Singer looked into her Newsbio and realized the site misattributed her name to an editorial and magazine article as evidence of her political and personal preferences. The report also speculated that Singer has low-self esteem because of the angle of a photograph.
By selling and distributing false information and placing judgments on a journalist’s character, Newsbios can damage a person’s reputation without their knowledge.
Do you think that Newsbios invades the privacy of journalists? Would you trust it to make a biography on you? You can follow Newsbios on twitter at @newsbios.