If you love her, leave her in peace.

May 12, 2009

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett

 

People who devour the details of celebrities’ personal lives should read the interview with Farrah Fawcett published in the Los Angeles Times on Monday. The interview – the only one the actress has given in more than two years – was conducted in August and was published in advance of a television program regarding Fawcett’s struggle for privacy, to be broadcast this weekend.

Fawcett was able to prove that an employee of UCLA Medical Center had illegally gained access to Fawcett’s medical records and had sold the information to the National Enquirer. That employee eventually resigned and has since died of cancer – the same disease for which Fawcett was being treated at UCLA.

The reporting of Fawcett’s illness has been revolting – and not only in the Enquirer. I have complained before about the nearly gleeful manner in which some television news anchors spit out the “headlines” on the latest developments in the woman’s illness – which appears to be terminal. 

The L.A. Times story included an explanation from Brandy Navarre – identified as vice president of a “paparazzi agency” – for the compulsion to hound a woman who may be dying.

“Particularly when it’s something sexy or scandalous,” Navarre told the paper, “or on the negative side, something kind of tragic and sad, for whatever reason, the public is interested in those types of stories.”

The public is interested, see? And that’s what made it profitable for a hospital employee to commit a federal crime and for a so-called newspaper to induce her with cash to do what the editors clearly knew was a crime. Navarre attributed the interest in the case to “the public’s love of this woman.”

If the public loves this woman, why doesn’t the public – and the media that serve the public – respect the privacy they would expect for themselves under such circumstances and leave Farrah Fawcett alone.

5 Responses to “If you love her, leave her in peace.”

  1. bart Says:

    Hypothetical scenarios:

    If back after Megan Kanka was killed if someone had leaked us medical records demonstrating that people treating Jesse Timmendequas at Avenel before they released him knew that he still suffered from compulsive pedophilia yet released them anyway, would we have published those records knowing that it was a crime for the Avenel employee to leak them to us?

    And:

    Roy Cohen was both an anti-gay rights advocate and a closeted homosexual. If while he was alive and campaigning against gay rights, one of his doctors leaked us medical information showing that he suffered from sexually transmitted diseases transmitted through homosexual contact, would we have published those records – again knowing that the person leaking them to us was breaking the law?

  2. charlespaolino Says:

    Well, there are no concrete answers to hypothetical questions. And in both of the cases you propose, the identity of the “we” in “would we have published” is critical. Certainly, some organizations would have published the information in spite of the law and some would not. Although I couched my comments about Farrah Fawcett in terms of the law, I think a case like hers is different from the cases you describe. In the Timmendequas case especially, the public arguably would have an urgent interest in the information. That points out a flaw in the federal privacy law, which is too all-encompassing. The issue with Farrah Fawcett may have more to do with humanity than with the law. The elusive thing, as always, is a determination of the public’s legitimate interest in a subject. The federal law frustrates journalists every day because they report incidents like serious accidents and then can’t report meaningful information about the condition of the folks who were injured. What is the public’s interest in that information? It depends on whom you ask.

    This discussion reminds me of a call I got from a reporter who told me that an unknown source had left him some court records that could have been obtained only by theft. The reporter began by saying: “I don’t know if I’ve crossed a line, but I know I can see the line from here.”

  3. bart Says:

    This is where I’m too competitive – and why it’s probably a good thing I’m no longer a journalist.

    I’d have run with it in all cases (or at least tried to get my editor to let me run with it in all cases) and particularly in the third case would have been delighted that someone wanted information out badly enough to be willing to steal it for me and give it to me for free.

    As to Farrah, I find it distasteful, but I think you have to let the low end tabloids do it, because that is what would allow higher end newspapers to publish the hypothetical Timmedequas stuff.

    (Though, I’d argue that the Roy Cohen stuff would be even more in the public interest than the Timmendequas stuff, because his actions influenced long term policy that effected millions of people, while Timmedequas crimes, while horrible, were limited in casualty numbers.)


  4. lol a lot of of the remarks many people make are silly and unrelated, on occasion i wonder if they even read the articles or reviews and reports before posting or whether they simply just read the subject of the post and post the very first idea that drifts into their minds. in any case, it really is pleasant to read clever commentary now and then compared to the same exact, outdated oppinion vomit which i more often than not discover on the internet i’m off to take up a couple of rounds of facebook poker good bye

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