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How media can force someone to reveal personal information

by on November 21, 2013

The world may have never known that former tennis great Arthur Ashe had already been living with AIDS for over three years if it weren’t for the information that was nearly revealed by a USA Today reporter.

On an April night in 1992, Ashe received a call from the reporter who told him he had been told of Ashe’s diagnosis and asked for confirmation as he was prepared to run a story on it in the next day’s paper.

Expecting to see the story, which never ran, in the next day’s paper, Ashe called for a news conference to reveal that he had received the disease following a blood transfusion and had been living with it for three years now.

Ashe was not yet ready to go public with his diagnosis, but had no choice to after information he had kept private for so long had been discovered and nearly made news by a reporter.

This is a prime example of the right to privacy discussions that have been made in class recently. Ashe was forced to go public with the information despite not being ready, because the reporter had planned to go through with the story anyway.

With that being said, I think what we see here is a reporter showing some awareness of journalistic ethics and integrity. Living with AIDS is certainly personal information, but the reporter did the right thing to call Ashe and try to confirm it with him, and at the very least make him aware of his intentions to publish the story.


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  1. I couldn’t agree more with this example. The fact that the reporter decided to call Arthur Ashe first was the best thing to do. It is a really great example of how to go about reporting (or not reporting?) on sensitive material such as AIDS. I wonder what the outcome would have been if he had just decided to run the story without confirming with Ashe first. I also wonder what the reporter might have been looking for when he came across this information. Regardless, I think he handled the outcome of the situation in the best way possible.

  2. Jocelyn Wallace permalink

    It’s definitely a good thing that the reporter called to verify the story with Ashe. However, I think he perhaps should have clarified whether or not the story would be run and when it would be run so that he could plan accordingly. It kind of seems like he was forced into a rushed press conference. With such a sensitive topic regarding health, I think there should have been more care for the subject in this situation. Perhaps the reporter could have gained his trust, perhaps done an interview with Ashe and print the story without him feeling rushed or forced.

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  1. A Word From Arthur Ashe And A Few Words From Robertson Davies And A Word About Ethics - Past Daily Weekend Reference Room | Past Daily

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