Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Levi Scavenger Hunt

Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Associated Press' Senior Managing Editor Mike Silverman's "Beat of the Week" memo goes out to his staff and last week praised reporter Adam Goldman for his "[t]racking down" of Levi Johnston.

Johnston, of course, is the teenage father of Bristol Palin's baby, and the subsequent AP story serves as a sort of celeb profile of the 18-year-old, detailing his thoughts on subjects from fatherhood to politics. The exclusive interview of who Silverman calls "one of the most elusive personalities of this presidential campaign" was conducted on Johnston's driveway after searches high and low and earned Goldman a $500 reward.

Problem is, Johnston should not be considered a fair game "personality" in this race. His tangential involvement in the race is unfortunate and it is extremely difficult to reckon with this sort of nosiness as journalism. The poor guy's private life became game as soon as Sarah Palin accepted the VP nod--a questionable decision considering her daughter's state--but an exposé is beyond superfulous. Let the kid live!

Sure, the interview beget some juicy quotes--"At first, I was nervous," he said. "Then I was like, 'Whatever.'"--but has the infotainment market blurred the line of journalistic ethics this severely?

The Society of Professional Journalists Code calls for reporters to "minimize harm" by treating subjects as humans deserving of respect. "Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion
into anyone’s privacy." To that end, "pandering to lurid curiousity" should be avoided and we should remember that "private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention."

Last I checked, ol' Levi just wants to focus on hunting and hockey and not once sought power of any kid. In accordance with the above standards, the AP's story is little more than a voyeuristic, bottom-feeding disgrace.

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