Rebirth of Reason


Blood Money? I Don't Think So
by Matthew Graybosch

I saw an article called "Blood Money" by Bridget Harrison on the front page of the New York Post while shopping this afternoon after work.

It's apparently part of the Post's 9/11: One Year Later series, and according to the article one of the survivors is insisting that reporters compensate him for time spent talking about his experiences on 11 September 2001.

I don't see anything wrong with this myself, but I like to make money too.

A businessman named Edward Fine survived the destruction of the World Trade Center by Muslim fanatics, despite being trapped on the 79th Floor of the north tower. A photographer from Agence France-Presse captured him on film, his suit covered in dust, in a photo that made the cover of Fortune. In the aftermath, he spoke freely of his experiences, but since then he's returned to his life as a businessman.

Now, as the first anniversary of the WTC's destruction draws near, reporters want to interview Mr. Fine. Mr. Fine wants them to pay for the privilege: $500 for an hour and $911 for two hours. His clients also pay $500 per hour for his services as the owner of a New Jersey investment/public relations firm, and to Mr. Fine any time he spends talking to reporters is time he is not spending running his business.

According to the New York Post article:

One journalist who interviewed him said he was amazed when their talk came to an end and Fine "put his hand out straight away and asked for his check."

I don't see why the journalist quoted in the article would be so surprised. After all, he's using up Mr. Fine's time, time he could be spending on pursuits important to him.

Ms. Harrision writes that, "Fine argues he has a right to ask for money because he is no longer a news story, and if photographers make money out of their 9/11 pictures, why shouldn't he?" However, given the title of the article, "Blood Money", I suspect that Ms. Harrison disagrees with Mr. Fine and thinks that he has no right to ask that he be paid for his time.

Ms. Harrison quotes other survivors, reporters, and a gentleman named Kenny Irby of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies to support her opinion that Mr. Fine has no right to insist that he be compensated for his time by reporters who want to hear his story.

Mr. Irby claims that, "Asking for money as a subject violates the implicit agreement in the United States between citizens and the media that public events in a public place are public property." For my part, I think the man is talking nonsense. What "implicit agreement" is this man talking about? Does he presume to state that if something others deem newsworthy happens to a person, then that person is duty-bound to tell his tale to any who will listen?

When did Edward Fine become the Ancient Mariner, anyway?

In my opinion, public events that happen in public to individuals are not public property. A person's life and experiences are his own whether others consider those experiences newsworthy or not. To insist that Mr. Fine speak of his life to anybody who demands it without compensating him for his time -- to say nothing of making him face whatever terror he experienced on 11 September 2001 -- is unforgivable. Edward Fine's life is his own, and he alone has the right to decide whether or not he will speak of it, to whom, and under what conditions.

To Edward Fine, I say: You ask too little of those who would use your story for their own gain.

To the New York Post, Bridget Harrison, and Kenny Irby I say this: Your press freedoms end where the right of individuals to their own lives and experiences begins. Men are not tools for you to use as fodder for your newspapers, no matter how momentous the event!

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