Public figures pay high price for their roles

Posted on 20 Sep 2007 at 7:02pm
By David Webb – The Rare Reporter

Loss of privacy accompanies rise in people’s prominence



David Webb: The Rare Reporter

So you want to be a public figure, huh?

You like getting your picture in the paper, being quoted and generally celebrated as a very important person in your community. Or maybe you just like contributing to a cause with your volunteer work and leading others, and that generates requisite media coverage.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of that. But remember, taking on a leadership role comes at a great cost the loss of privacy.

Anyone who becomes a public figure will be praised in the media when they do good things. But they will be taken to task when they become involved in less savory affairs.

It’s a basic standard of journalism. We report both the good news and the bad news. The readers are entitled to know about all facets of the people they admire and often try to emulate.

We’ve had quite a bit of bad news this year, and it hasn’t been much fun for anyone. It generally leads to a lot of headaches and other unpleasantness.

This week I received more phone calls and e-mail of complaints about a story in progress than I have ever before received in my 20-year-plus career. I’ve listened to everyone and read everyone’s e-mails, trying to be considerate of their feelings. I know it’s difficult for anyone to hear that there will be an unpleasant story about a friend and colleague in the paper.

But in the end, I had to tell them that their arguments and pleas were to no avail the story would run.

A great effort was made to deflect attention from the core of the story what the public figure allegedly had done and focus it on a group of people who had brought the matter to the attention of the community and the media.

The real issue is that leaders in the community will be held to high standards by their peers and the media. If they aren’t up to the task or if they have skeletons in their closet, then they might want to rethink their plans to become highly visible.

Public scrutiny goes with the territory, and it can lead to humiliation.
E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 21, 2007

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