A Right To Know

I love television newsmen. They’re loving. Courteous. Kind. Most of them are real Boy Scouts. I think they were particularly impressive on the night President Ford won the Republican nomination. The three major TV networks were furiously trying to out-hustle and out-story the others, and finally one reporter scored. He stuck a microphone in front of Howard Baker as he and his family were leaving their hotel for the arena. After a couple of general questions, the media star asked Baker in front of his wife and kids to comment on his wife’s drinking problem.

If I’d been he, I might have lost my cool, stuffed the microphone down the reporter’s throat, and given him a serious drinking problem. But Baker remained calm. The newsman then concluded this sensitive piece of reporting by asking Mrs. Baker to comment on her problem. I turned to another channel.

On the late news, Dr. Renee Richards, the eye doctor who had undergone “sexual reassignment” from a man to a woman, was being interviewed. Reporters had discovered her secret and felt they had a right to know because Dr. Richards had become a public figure. They decided she had become a public figure when she won a local tennis tournament for women. Renee explained that she had begged a newsman not to divulge the information for the sake of her family. But the newsman had, and now Renee wanted to clarify a few things. Her two big points were: She was now a woman, and she had not undergone the change to become a woman’s tennis champ at the age of forty-one. But that wasn’t enough. An ace reporter asked, “Did you ever father a child when you were a man?”

That did it. I shut off the set.

What right does a reporter have to ask a woman about her former drinking problem ...

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