Ruling in the Hulk Hogan Case
This week we learned that a jury awarded Hulk Hogan $115 million (US) because an online source posted a salacious video of Hogan having sex.
The video was posted allegedly without Hogan’s knowledge or permission and, according to the New York Times, a jury in Florida agreed the action was “an invasion of privacy” on the part of Gawker.com, which offered its viewers the video’s viewing.
What exactly is Gawker.com?
When I searched for Gawker on my online browser this is what I found:
Gawker: Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news.
I also found that “Gawker believes that publicly airing rumors out is usually the quickest way to get to the truth.”
Honestly: I doubt gossip is a way to truth.
Indeed, the code of ethics of journalists is to seek truth, according to the Society of Professional Journalists.
So: if the video is truthful, then what’s the problem? Why might a jury award millions of dollars in damages?
Turns out truth isn’t the only issue that journalists confront.
Privacy and permission are also important.
The court reckons that Hogan—who is a retired wrestler and erstwhile celebrity—is entitled to some degree of privacy regardless of his celebrity status.
While many news-folk wring their hands over the court’s decision—which they frame as a death-knell for freedom of speech—the hand-wringing is misplaced.
News efforts to seek the truth need not tarry into bedrooms of retired wrestlers on the flimsy excuse of fact-finding.
Such excuses do nothing to enlighten the public or serve justice and democracy, as stated in the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics.
Rather, airing a sex video does nothing for democracy and everything for voyeuristic titillation: which is hardly a function of ethical journalism.
I hope you don’t mind a comment from someone not involved in journalism in any way. You make a few points here and I’m not totally sure of your overall conclusion. I would say that the publishing of this video by that website surely doesn’t fall into the heading of journalism? Whether it’s the truth or not a video of anyone having sex is in my mind not news at all. I don’t care what so called celebrities do in either their public or private life, I have absolutely no interest in them. I would question your statement about journalists seeking the truth. Whereas I am sure that it is in the code of ethics and there are probably many journalists out there who do indeed seek it, it isn’t the primary driver. I stopped reading newspapers on the basis that whether it is the truth or not most of the pages are filled with sensationalism and gossip which are not what I call news. Even if they are true, a filter should be put up with does it really matter? I heard another journalist once say that what there job is is to seek the truth; that may have been true many years ago but today their job is to sell newspapaers and that means finding stories, true or otherwise, that pander to the general public’s lust for inane gossip.