Last Saturday’s Aspen Daily News story finally uncovered where Bob Braudis was for the last four weeks–in rehab at the Desert Canyon alchohol and drug clinic.
But how it became news was due not to any initiative at the paper to find out why Bob was missing for (most of) seven weeks, but to what can fairly be called a “trick” by Rick Magnuson.
I don’t personally like the trick. It’s not nearly to Karl Rove depths, and Rick was 100% forthcoming in disclosing what he did, but it was a trick. And in Pitkin County, we should be debating the issues.
However, what is also clear is that the local press abdicated any responsibilities in taking action in rooting out this story. And without the trick, it would likely have been unreported by an “official” news source.
Let’s first address whether this was a story or not. I admit that this is not clear cut.
This is a “right to know” versus “privacy” issue that can drive even libertarians chasing their tail. Do we have a right as voters to know that our publicly elected Sheriff was on leave for a month out of the county to treat some kind of drug or alchohol addiction? Or does Bob Braudis’s rights to privacy protect him from having to disclose his leave?
Again, I will be the first one to say that this issue is not cut-and-dry. I do want to respect Bob’s privacy. However, I also want accountability from my public officials, and believe that when you run for office (or, for that matter, make $20 million making a movie or hitting home runs), you become part of the public domain that trades off some of that privacy in certain matters. Particularly when it is relevant to your political philosophies and job.
Many high profile political “privacy versus public right to know” events come to mind:
- The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and more relevantly the numerous adultery “outings” of Clinton’s sanctimonious critics. In fact, the number of high profile outings by the press of our polticians’ bedroom behavior is quite large.
- Marion Barry’s getting caught using crack cocaine, spurring the infamous “that ***** ***** set me up!” quote
- And “tough on drug” Rush Limbaugh’s illegal prescription drug shopping spree
One can agree or disagree that these people had a right to privacy. But what is clear in each case (and numerous others) that the press was there to disclose the truth on what these public figures–who were making or influencing policy–were doing in their private lives that contradicted their policy stances.
And to me, given Bob Braudis’s very public stance on decriminalizing drugs, he being in rehab is very relevant to the upcoming race, and clears the 21st century bar on what is news. The “Gentleman’s Agreement” between the press and public figures is largely history (think John Kennedy versus Patrick Kennedy).
For that matter, it seems to me it would clear the 20th century bar for the Aspen Daily News, formerly known to take pride in outing embarassing (if not always relevant) stories about high-profile residents before it was fashionable? What about it’s famous (and very catchy) saying on the logohead (the title of this blog)?
Thus, whether you agree like I do that this is newsworthy or not, it’s clear that given today’s norms it should (from a positive, not normative sense) have been reported. But given a clear Braudis-bias in the press, we have “Rick’s Trick” and now the story on the table, front-and-center.
That will be the focus on my next post.