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Reporting On Leaked Medical Records Newsworthy To A Point

Sep 16, 2016

Yet again, news organizations around the globe are reporting on computer hackers illegally obtaining – and releasing - private information.

This summer – the Democratic Party and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were targets. Now the hackers have taken aim at American Olympic athletes and their medical records.

The documents reveal that some athletes received what’s called therapeutic use exemptions for a variety of medications, and that they did nothing illegal. News organizations from ABC News to Inside Edition are reporting on it, from a variety of angles.

“Anytime you have information about the type of medications that Olympic athletes use, particularly after the Rio Olympics, where we spent so much time talking about the Russian athletes and their drug use, you’re going to have journalists who are interested in the stories,” said Kelly McBride, of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. “I don’t think it’s inappropriate to report what is released in these medical records.”

But she said, sharing the actual documents with the public is a step too far.

“Medical records are private. This was clearly an invasion of privacy,” McBride said. “And I think there’s a way to report on the contents of the records without publishing the records themselves.”