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Erin Andrews Nude Video Raises Journalistic Ethics Questions

ESPN today released a statement in support of one of its reporters, Erin Andrews, who was videotaped nude without her knowledge or consent. Spokesman Josh Krulewitz said "Erin has been grievously wronged," and the network stands behind her.

Last week, a five minute blurry video of Andrews standing naked at a mirror in a hotel room hit the Internet. It appears to have been shot through a hole in a wall. It's not known when the video was shot, or by whom. But Andrews' attorney, Marshall Grossman, said "Although the perpetrators of this criminal act have not yet been identified, when they are identified, she intends to bring both civil and criminal charges against them and against anyone who has published the material." Web sites quickly took down the video after getting that warning.

This raises the question of where the media draws the line when it comes to publishing such material? While many sites did provide the video, TMZ, which is notorious for running scandalous photos, did not. TMZ said, "We will not publish the video nor did we purchase it. It's a clear invasion of privacy."

But Web sites routinely run celebrity photos that can be argued as having invaded their privacy, such as shots of them sunbathing in their backyards, taken with a long telephoto lens. Perhaps it has much do with the what is legal and what is not, and if there is a threat of legal action. In this case, ESPN general counsel David Pahl sent this letter to at least one website:

“These pictures were obviously taken through a peephole or otherwise in a fashion constituting a trespass/assault on the rights of the woman involved.

“Your continued posting of these pictures are highly likely to render you an accessory after the fact to a criminal act. We hereby demand that you (i) immediately remove these pictures from your site and (ii) disclose to us the source of the pictures. We intend to hold you fully responsible for further display of material that so obviously violates the law.”

In another twist to the story, computer hackers hit the Internet over the weekend offering bogus links to the video that resulted in users downloading a virus instead. "Hackers are no slacks when it comes to taking advantage of a hot Internet search trend, and they have been quick to set up bogus webpages claiming to contain the video footage of Ms. Andrews in her hotel room," Graham Cluley of Sophos, an anti-virus company, told USA Today.


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