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OCLC FAST subject heading

Freedom of the press


In an award-winning series of Houston Chronicle articles, reporter Nancy Stancill uncovered shocking conditions in Texas nursing homes. 7 However, reforms were not implemented until 20/20, following Stancill's lead, conducted a three-month, undercover investigation of the treatment of elderly residents at Texas state and private nursing home facilities.

By employing subterfuge to gather news, the 20/20 reporters enhanced the immediacy and credibility of the resulting story. As one journalist argued, "[Jiust describing the conditions wouldn't have cut it. They had to be seen."

Using the 20/20 case as a paradigm, this Note argues that, in order to distinguish protected newsgathering activity from intrusion, a brighter line must be drawn between individual privacy and the press's duty to gather news. Part I surveys constitutional doctrine and state tort law, which, on balance, offer little protection to a newsgatherer employing novel or "nonroutine" newsgathering techniques. Part II details the dangers of current doctrine to the newsgatherer and to the free flow of information that affects public welfare. To remedy these dangers, Part III advocates the adoption of a qualified common-law privilege.


This article was published under the author's former name, Lyrissa C. Barnett.