Journalists must respect privacy of others
There are places where you have no expectation of privacy, such as a public sidewalk or a crowded bus. There are security cameras throughout the campus that are probably being viewed at this moment by some person you have never met. But surely you can feel solitude when in a bathroom or shower stall. According to certain members of the media, though, this is apparently public space, too.
If you watched the local news yesterday, you would have seen some nice coverage of the new gender-neutral housing program that will be starting at the University in the fall of 2011. Most of the attention focused on Demarest Hall, where I am a resident and the Outreach Coordinator. If you watched CBS 2 New York, you would have seen the lovely gender-neutral bathrooms that were installed in Demarest during the summer of 2010. These bathrooms even have swipe access to keep track of who accesses the bathroom. You would have also seen residents of Demarest Hall showering in these bathrooms. Of course, there was no nudity and no reporter pulled open the shower door to surprise a freshly-cleaned student, but the fact remains: A reporter and her cameraperson entered a private bathroom, meant solely for use by residents of Demarest Hall and disregarded the inherent privacy of the space.
According to students who were in this particular bathroom at the time, the reporter gave no advanced notice of entering the bathroom and attempted to ask questions of students when they were clad only in towels, still soaking wet from their showers.
I speak on behalf of Demarest Hall when I say that is one of the most negligent, intrusive and offensive things done by a member of the media I have ever seen. The gender-neutral bathrooms were specifically designed by Residence Life to prevent something like this from happening. Within hours of the incident occurring, residents of Demarest were expressing their frustration through social networking and approaching members of the Residence Life staff to figure out what happened.
I personally encountered the reporter, Magee Hickey, outside the building, interviewing another resident. By the time I had met her, she had already entered, filmed the area in question and returned outside. I politely introduced myself and she promptly asked me if she could return inside. I, unaware of what she already did, escorted her. As I did, I calmly mentioned that I was escorting her out of concern for residents, since reporters had been extremely invasive in other residence halls following recent on campus incidents. As we walked up the stairs, she looked at me and said, "Yeah, we're horrible people."
During her time on campus, I did not see any representatives from Rutgers Media Relations with her, nor any of the other reporters on campus that day. While a representative does not need to be there in a public setting, I think it should at least be required for when a journalist enters a residence hall.
I ask any student of journalism at the University to not follow the example of this reporter. Yes, the public has a right to information. But that doesn't mean you have to invade the privacy of others to get it, especially in a place as private and intimate as a shower stall.
Jordan Gochman is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double majoring in labor studies and employment relations and theater. He is Outreach Coordinator for Demarest Hall on the College Avenue campus.
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