Sunday, December 16, 2007

Kentucky's press hits a new low, outs lottery winner who wanted anonymity

We didn't think Kentucky's media could sink much lower than their one-sided coverage of the 2007 gubernatorial election and the Fletcher administration.

Boy, were we fooled.

Last week, a winning Powerball ticket was sold in a rural Bullitt County retailer between Shepherdsville and Fort Knox. The winner eschewed the usual publicity, requesting anonymity.

In such a life-changing incident, where there is no legitimate public interest to be served in revealing the winner's identity, you'd think the press would respect his request to remain anonymous.

Think again.

Information on the identity of lottery winners is a matter of public record in Kentucky. And despite the winner's request to refrain from having his name publicized, the Courier-Journal filed an open records request with the lottery board, got the name of the winner, then rushed to post it on the C-J's Web site.

Sure, the newspaper was well within its rights to do so, but was that disclosure really in the public's best interest? Now the lottery winner will be hounded for chunks of his new fortune. He'll have relatives coming out of the woodwork, most he's never heard of, singing sob stories and looking for a handout. Charities, some legitimate but many not, will also be looking for some cash. If the winner tells them no, they'll try to shame him into a donation.

We've noticed a dramatic dropoff in the level of civility in the discourse of the C-J's editorials over the past few years. Gone are the rhetorical flourishes and elegant prose of eras past. In their place are coarse, hostility-filled rants that are far beyond anything the left has ever accused Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter of uttering.

No surprise, then, that the newsroom's standards have declined along with the editorial board's.

Shame on the Courier-Journal. Shame on them for not respecting this man's wishes. Shame on them for seeking the scoop and the headline at the expense of a private individual's tranquility. Shame on them for putting their desires above the good of the general public.

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