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Questions about:

Sports Personality - Aids

Wed, 23 Sep 1998

Answer from Miguel

From: "Ilham Bouchentouf" To: "Miguel Ossandon"

Dear Miguel, I hope you are doing fine, and that you are all done with your "homework" by this time.
I am writing you to tell you a little about the ethical case I read this morning at the Newseum.
The case was about the famous tennis player, Arthur Ashe. You know, it's the player who won Wimbledon in 1975.
the case was introduced as follow:
If a sport celebrity has aids, and you were a sport editor of a Major Newspaper that had this information will you
1/ Get him to confirm the story and then publish it or,
2/ Drop the story because his privacy comes first.
Most of the Newseum visitors chose the first choice ( 52%), I personally chose the second.
Gene Policinski, the Editor of USA today was the person who faced that choice in April 1992.
He decided to run the story in his newspaper only if Arthur Ashe confirms it.
The problem here was that a lot of journalists already new about this, and all of them kept the secret feeling that it was more ethical not to expose the tennis player and his family to such and "add".
When Arthur Ashe was interviewed about his sickness, he stood vague. But the editor published the story anyway.
Before the story was published, and after this interview, Arthur Ashe gave a press conference explaining how he had been infected by tainted blood given to him during a previous heart surgery.
Gene Policinski was criticized by his colleague that felt that was he did was "to rob the man of the ability to tell his family and friends when he is ready to".
I don't know what you think about this issue?
Is it the role of the press to tell the world that X or Y has aids, in 1992, when aids is still in some places considered as a curse?
I think that it was not ethical from the editor behalf to run the story.
Specially after the vague interview he had with the tennis player.
Moreover, some journalists knew about it for three years and never ran thestory feeling all the harm it could have done. To justify what he did, the editor said that when a sport personality was dead it was news, and so it is when he's sick.
I think that what he openly forgot is that any being is free to tell that he is sick or to keep it for himself. Freedom of speech is for sure important, but not at the cost of freedom of privacy. I truly believe that this notion can be expand to what is going on today with Clinton.
I am very interested of having your opinion about this issue : Do you think that the news are suppose to report everything, or that they must think about the harm they can create and be able to show compassion sometimes?
I am looking forward to hearing from you about this!
Sincerely, Ilham.