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Does “Missing Richard Simmons” Cross a Line Between Journalism and Voyeurism?

In the late 1980s a reporter sat outside then-Senator Gary Hart’s house in secret, waiting for him to emerge with a woman who wasn’t his wife. The reporter was investigating to see if Hart was lying to the public about not having an extramarital affair.

As it turned out Hart was lying, and the private lives of public officials became fair game.

How about celebrities who also choose to be public figures? How about private citizens with important jobs that serve the public? Where is the line drawn when investigative journalism becomes an invasion of privacy or voyeurism?

A new hit podcast called “Missing Richard Simmons” has inadvertently raised these questions. The host, Dan Taberski, was a casual friend of Simmons before he disappeared from public life in 2014. The podcast takes us to stake-outs outside of Simmons’ house, has us knocking on relatives doors, and relentlessly pursuing the missing icon.

Is it fair for us to aggressively track down a man who has otherwise said he wants to be left alone?

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson asks those questions of Lee Wilkins, professor and chair of the Department of Communications at Wayne State University, and Candice Fortman, Marketing Director of WDET.

To hear their conversation, click on the audio player above.

Image credit: Missing Richard Simmons

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

detroittoday@wdet.org  

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