Tuesday, August 09, 2005

'Mona Lisa' Producers Accused of Bias

Even as the movie "Mona Lisa Smile" explored stereotypes of female repression at a 1950s women's college, its producers discriminated against 19 female musicians who were paid less than their male counterparts, the U.S. government says.

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The Right to Investigate

As reported by many bloggers, the NYT sought to look at the adoption records of the young children of SCOTUS nominee Judge Roberts. This story has been covered very well by many. However, it did raise a few questions & concerns for me. In response, the NYT issued a statement, which included these lines:
..."Our reporters made initial inquiries about the adoptions, as they did about many other aspects of his background. They did so with great care, understanding the sensitivity of the issue," said Times spokesman Toby Usnik. "We have not pursued the issue after the initial inquiries, which detected nothing irregular about the adoptions."

If they saw making "initial inquiries about the adoptions" as a routine matter, then I'd like to know what other aspects of this man's life & that of his family they made "initial inquiries about". I recall the uproar in the NYT over provisions in the Patriot Act that allow the FBI & Dept of Homeland Security to investigate the library records of those suspected of being dangerous criminals. I fail to understand how a newspaper that considers the violation of privacy abhorrent in the case of a terrorist investigation, justifies a clear & egregious violation of the rights of an innocent man & his family.

As I am not a lawyer, I'd like to know: is it legal to investigate a person's children & how far is a newspaper allowed to go in their investigation of a person?

Also, as one of Michelle Malkin's readers point out in their letters to her, this bottom feeding can be harmful to the children.
It is up to the parents and the parents alone to decide what they tell the kids about their adoption. What if the paper published information the Roberts didn't want to have out there yet, what if the kids at some future date found this information in the public domain, rather than from their parents in a loving, supportive context? What in the bleep gives the NYT the right to usurp one of most important duties of an adoptive parent, that of sharing with the children where they come from?

There is certainly controversy over the extent to which the NYT attempted to dig in their investigation. However, by their own admission, they did attempt to violate the privacy of a man who has not been charged with any crime.

Another disturbing aspect of a statement they sent a reader who expressed concern over the issue was:
Like all major news organizations, we report extensively on the life and career of any nominee or candidate for high public office. Most of the inquiries we make do not report in published articles at all; we would simply be remiss if we did not ask the questions.

I can't help but be curiouse as to what kinds of inquiries the NYT makes about "the life & career of any nominee or candidate for high public office". What is their policy, where do they draw the line & what do they do with the information they do not report?

If & when the government decides to investigate a person, there is an established procedure for such things: there are guidelines, which state what things are permissible & what things are not. They are required to keep records of the investigation, who did what, how & when, as well as archive the information & make the information available to the public, baring extreme instances, even then, it is possible to sue to get access to these records, as the ACLU knows well. The government must also maintain records of who had access to these records. As far as I am aware, please correct me if I am wrong, a privately owned newspaper is not under such constraints & obligations.

It's nice to be worried about Big Brother government looking into your life, but what about the ability of media conglomorates to dig through people's lives. I am by no means suggesting that media organizations not scrutinize candidates for government office, but rather that they divulge the extent & the nature of their investigations as well as what they do with the information that they chose not to publish. I realize also that journalists have special protections that allow them to shield their sources, however, would it be a violation of the Constitution if they were to be required to say, we will investigate X’s educational & professional records from the age of 18 & professional & personal contacts, & the information we discovered will be archived in such & such a manner, at such & such a place, & maintain records of who accessed these records. With the current policy, had Druge not reported this story, we may not have known that the NYT pried into the Roberts family's adoption records.

The NYT states that this type of intrusive investigation is routine for anyone seeking higher office, but what is their policy regarding other people in the news? If I were to be the author of a published book, it could be argued that I am a public figure, therefore, does that give the NYT an open pass to investigate every nook & cranny of my life & that of my family? Should they decide to do a story on me, are there any limits to the extent to which they can violate my privacy? Will I know what aspects of my life they have investigated & how far they have dug? Is it unreasonable to want to know who knows what?

To be fair, the NYT is not empowered to charge anyone with a crime or take any legal action against him or her & therefore does not have same sort of power over an individual's life that the FBI or Dept of Homeland Security does. However, the information that they publish is a matter of public record & can have unjustifiable adverse effects on a person's life. Also, were this information they gather to find its way into unscrupulous hands, there is the possibility of that information being abused. It is not my intention to sound alarmist or paranoid, but the ability to investigate & gather personal information, without the consent of an individual, does concern me, even when it is not the government.

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