Wick Communications

Sony asks for silence

In Ethics on December 18, 2014 at 3:19 pm
Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom seemed to present a different opinion of how the media should handle stolen documents.

Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom seemed to present a different opinion of how the media should handle stolen documents.

Show of hands: Who here has to change Christmas plans now that Sony Pictures’ “The Interview” won’t be opening at theaters across America?

Well, it probably wasn’t “The Godfather,” now was it?

As I’m sure you have heard, Sony’s been hacked. At this writing, it appears the hacking was the work of North Korean agents bent on punishing the international conglomerate for making a comedy poking fun at the famously closed society and its unconventional leader. (Which, by the way, sounds like a much better movie premise than the farcical idea behind “The Interview.”)

The most salacious revelations come in the form of executive emails released by the hackers. As you might expect, those emails show that some folks were a bit candid in their assessment of colleagues and projects. The emails revealed executive pay and plans for upcoming movies, among other things.

Well, the suits at the movie studio – and some of their high-profile talent – don’t like it. And they are taking aim at a familiar foil: the media.

  • “I was just saying that I don’t see a difference in News Corp hacking phone calls and hacking e-mails. I don’t think we should be able to participate,” said Brad Pitt on Yahoo News.
  • “Is there anything in these emails at all that’s in the public interest?” asked Adam Sorkin on the Today Show. “There isn’t, there’s just gossip there.”
  • “I can’t believe people are just so happy be like, ‘Look at this stolen information,’” Seth Rogen said on the Howard Stern radio show.

I wonder what these same privacy protectors had to say about the Edward Snowden document dump? I’m not suggesting Snowden and the hackers occupy the same moral turf, but it’s an interesting intellectual question.

Legally, my understanding is that – despite a lawyer letter from Sony to some of the nation’s biggest news operations – reporters are on pretty firm ground when reporting from stolen information they themselves did not steal. There is an awful lot of case law behind Snowden, the Pentagon Papers and many other instances through the ages. …

But is it newsworthy? I think some of it probably is. For instance, we learned that, of the 17 Sony employees earning more than $1 million a year, only one is female. And now, the fact that a movie company has capitulated to the demands of hackers, this has become one of the biggest stories of the year in my mind. Ironically, Sony’s response has made this news.

If you want to read a more pointed critique of the Sorkin position, here’s your chance.

Interesting questions abound.

Clay

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