Home Blurring The Lines of Privacy: Did The Twittered Funeral Take Things Too Far?

Blurring The Lines of Privacy: Did The Twittered Funeral Take Things Too Far?

During this past week a strange event has put Twitter in a new light. Berny Morson, a Rocky Mountain news reporter, took reporting on Twitter to another level. He did not wait for the memorial service to publish the news about the tragic death of a 3-year-old boy. Instead, Morson “twittered” the funeral service this past Wednesday. All across the world bloggers and media outlets have been speaking up about the incident. Was Morson really in the wrong for twittering such an event?

A Question of Ethics

Some are saying Morson took reporting to an all-time low and found his technique to be repulsive. The U.K. newspaper Guardian has stated that Morson is a prime example of its “‘Inappropriate Use of Technology’ chart.” Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism professor Samuel Freedman told ABCnews.com that,

“I think that reporters are often in the uncomfortable position of reporting from settings where people are in great grief. These situations call for the greatest understanding and discretion on the part of the reporter.To be putting real-time notes out there as opposed to waiting until the ceremony is over; there’s an element of pillaging a private moment of grief that I’m uncomfortable with.”

Freedman also equates the event to “a TV journalist doing a stand-up in the middle of a funeral.” Unfortunately, most are finding the technique Morson used to be downright unethical and disrespectful to the the Kudlis family. But was it?

Over Reacting

Rabbi David J. Zucker who officiated service disagrees with those in outrage over the event.

“I don’t see anything on this [Web site] — that Berny did — is in anyway offensive,” he said, adding that the coverage was professional and compassionate. “The way I see it is that it’s somebody sharing to a wider community [that was] interested and felt connected to this sad event.”

To some extent it can be said that there was nothing wrong with Morson’s use of Twitter to keep interested sympathizers informed. The updates are still available on the Twitter account RMN_Berny. Upon viewing the updates, you notice that there’s absolutely nothing humiliating or disrespectful about what Morson sent to the Twitter account. The updates are short, simple, and do not divulge any unnecessary information about the funeral. The updates served more as service guides than anything else.

Ethics or Techniques?

If it’s Morson’s ethics that are in question, I see nothing wrong with the way he reported the event. However, a funeral that is twittered may be a little too much for others to stomach. If it is a question of respect, the parents of Marten haven’t said anything about Morson’s “tweets”. After all, it was their choice to allow him to report the funeral service. What difference does it really make if he chooses to report via Twitter?

This incident also brings up a very touchy topic: privacy. Morson has only helped to blur the line of what’s meant to be public and what’s meant to be private when it comes to the use of technology. Are we making too much information readily accessible online? Maybe so. However, the choice is always ours to make.

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