Hidden Life-Mayor West

 Privacy can be defined in many ways. In Latin, privacy means “separated from the rest or deprived of something”. According to Wikipedia, privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively. I believe that public officials do have a right to privacy. However, I understand being a public figure, is just that public. But just because someone is a public official doesn’t mean their private life should be public, it’s called private life for a reason. Frontline’s Hidden Life story which was about Mayor Jim West and the Spokesman-Review, was an excellent example of breach of privacy in my opinion. They (the Spokesman-Review, the newspaper that ousted West) overstepped their bounds by outing West as gay. By looking into public officials private life to reveal aspects of abuse of power would be acceptable, however looking into his private life to reveal his sexual orientation is not acceptable.

            News media’s role in a democratic society is to inform the people. News should be used as a way of informing the masses of ‘need to know’ information, not ‘want to know’ information. Political scandals have turned into private life scandals of politicians. Political scandals should be a scandal in politics or political office. I don’t think if a politician is gay or cheated or his/her spouse that it should be reported to the masses or even reported on at all.

            Editor of the Spokesman-Review, Steven Smith tried to differentiate between a ‘legitimate news story and a non-legitimate one’. This is referring to the allegation that Mayor West was pursuing underage boys online. I think Smith was saying that if West was pursuing young boys online then the public needed to know that about their mayor and if he wasn’t his preference for younger males isn’t necessary for the public to know. However, I disagree. I think how the Spokesman-Review dug up West’s sexual orientation and age preference was completely out of line. It isn’t the newspaper staff’s place and/or to pose as someone online that they aren’t, it’s the police’s job. I think there is only a story if in fact West was pursuing underage boys, however I don’t think the story should even be on the table until he was booked and charged by the police.

            Reporter for the Spokesman-Review, Bill Morlin justified the use a concealed identity online (Gay.com) because he was finding out information as a reporter. Morlin himself didn’t create the fake identity and engage Mayor West because it went against the journalism code of ethics. I think the whole ordeal goes against the journalism code of ethics and just ethics in general. The whole ordeal is horrific and awful. I lost by faith in journalism after viewing Hidden Life. Journalists aren’t supposed to fake any part of their job or reporting, this whole story was based on dishonesty.

            I think that the only people that should conduct ‘sting operations’ are the police and the government and only under the circumstance of suspicion of a crime. ‘Sting operations’ should never be conduct by news media or a private citizen. I think news media shouldn’t conduct ‘sting operations’ because  news media reporters are supposed to always alert the person being interviewed or that is confessing that everything they tell the reporter is ‘on the record’. Private citizens shouldn’t conduct ‘sting operations’ because it’s really none of their business.

            I think the Spokesman-Review published so many articles about the allegations against Mayor West for two main reasons. I think the first reason, is based on Editor of the Spokesman-Review, Steven Smith. I think Smith had some sort of grudge against West. I feel like Smith really wanted to get West out of office and ultimately ruin his life, which he succeeded at doing. I believe Smith had a grudge because of the massive amount of articles the Spokesman-Review published and the way he talked about it during the series of interviews on Frontline’s Hidden Life. The second reason I believe the West ‘scandal’ receive so much attention from the Spokesman-Review was the community’s interest. I think the first article containing all the allegations really sparked the interest of the people of the community about Mayor West’s personal life. The Spokesman-Review continued to publish stories about West because the people kept reading the stories religiously.

            I believe Mayor West is a sympathetic character. I feel horrible for him. I think Mayor West is the victim in this story. I also admire West for the way he handled the whole situation. West was closeted because of the time period in which he grew up. The era, in which he grew up in, it wasn’t acceptable to be gay, so he hid it the best he could. Then he became a republican politician, notoriously against homosexuality, which must have been so hard for him. Hidden Life mentions the fact he voted down bills on gay rights, which is something else I’m sure was hard for him to do. Also after the allegations came out in the Spokesman-Review he tried to continue living life as normally as possible. He kept going to work and tried to keep on living a normal life. I just can’t imagine how I would react if something like that happened to me. I want to be a public figure but I want to have a private life. I don’t want my business being run in nationwide stories.

            The title ‘Hidden Life’ can be looked at from many different perspectives: the Spokesman-Review, Mayor West, and the citizens of Spokane, Washington (were the story took place).  When concerning the Spokesman-Review, the phrase Hidden Life is about exposing people’s hidden lives. When concerning Mayor West, the phrase Hidden Life is about the life he had hidden. When concerning the citizens of Spokane, the phrase Hidden Life is about learning about the hidden lives of public figures in their community.

            The Spokesman-Review’s exposition on Mayor West had both positive and negative repercussions. For example the positive outcome was for the Spokesman-Review itself. Most likely the newspaper sold more papers because of the editorial fashion of the allegations against West. By selling more papers they made more money. I believe both Mayor West and the citizens of Spokane were hurt. Mayor West was obviously hurt because he had his life turned upside down. The article ousted him publicly, caused him to ultimately lose his office, emotional turmoil, loss of friends and political allies, and many more things as well. I think this hurt the citizens of Spokane because they lost a good politician that had been representing them politically for years because of this. I do not think the outcome was worth it. The Spokesman-Review ruined someone’s life and career in order to satisfy a childlike grudge of the editor and to sell more papers.

            To conclude, I believe the Spokesman-Review is a poor excuse for a news outlet because of the fact this story was published. Also because of the continuation of allegations against West was just rehashing the story that was based on assumptions and dishonesty.  I think Mayor West was very upset with this whole incident because in Frontline’s Hidden Life he is visibly distraught and who wouldn’t be upset about an ordeal like this. 

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