Journalists preach about integrity and transparency, two noble principles that have long been the hallmark of the profession. Yet those principles can collude head-on with the issue of privacy.
When it does, privacy should seldom lose.
But privacy took a trouncing when journalism steamrolled it with the ongoing leaks of names of ballplayers who used performance-enhancing drugs (or steroids). Their names were supposedly on a “secret” list. Yet it seems as if each day another player whose name made the list is outed, much to the consternation of the player and his union leaders.
They had agreed to the testing under the condition players who tested positive for using PED would have their identities kept secret. The agreement also satisfied people at the highest levels of the Commissioner's Office.
Deals like these, however, are as shaky as a house built with Popsicle sticks. They fall apart because a well-kept secret is as rare as a game-ending triple play. So, of course, such a deal had no chance of holding up, and it didn’t.
Not that I have one ounce of sympathy for men like Alex Rodriquez, David Ortiz and Miguel Tejada, men whose names made the users' list. For what they did was stain the game’s integrity, and no American sport has put a higher value on its integrity than baseball.
I do, however, think the PED abusers are owed more than a bad bargain. To leak their names cast a spotlight on them that is unwarranted. To leak their names, by all accounts, was illegal, too.
Illegality outrages journalists. They pour endless hours and as much of their newspaper’s money into setting a wrong right. Yet I have not seen a single newspaper or Internet company or newsmagazine take aim at the man (or men) who leaked these names.
The leaker has become baseball’s version of “Deep Throat,” though comparisons between the two are as absurd as comparing Morton’s to McDonald’s. Both serve meals, but does anyone want to build a gourmet dinnerl around a bagful of Big Macs?
Somewhere out there is a journalist who sees the injustice of what has happened to these ballplayers. I would like to think that an investigative reporter for a media company with pockets deep enough will explore the matter: find the person who leaked the names. The reporter might find a Pulitzer Prize in it for him.
I hope he uncovers the person’s name not to vindicate the PED abusers but to make certain that people in positions to keep secrets, keep secrets. For to assail the behavior of Rodriguez and Ortiz on one front leaves no choice, as unseemly as it might be to people, but to do likewise on the legal front.
As bad as what the 104 PED abusers did, it pales in comparison to breaking the law in leaking names. The man who did deserves more than public scorn. A caning sounds about right.
Or, better yet, a prison cell next to Bernie Madoff.