Media or Not: It matters

There’s a debate on Twitter over whether Sean Pamphilon, the documentary filmmaker who released the Gregg Williams tape, counts as a member of the media or not. Certain aspects of the debate are goofy as Saints fans look for a place to direct their anger over what’s happened, but I think the distinction is important.¬†Roles act as lenses through which we our actions can be judged.

Why? If Pamphilon is a member of the “media”*, whatever that is, then you can make a pretty good argument that he ultimately has to serve the truth, and was duty-bound to release the footage. Journalism has a long (sordid?) history of uncovering scandal, and a free press is a critical part of maintaining our democracy. Football is a rough sport, and we as fans should understand exactly what we support when we cheer for our team. Pamphilon’s footage helps clarify what happens in the locker room, and it’s horrific to many.

*UPDATE: The inimitable Grandmaster Wang points out that I’m conflating the terms “media” and “journalist” here, which is somewhat true. However, I think the larger point remains: journalist or not?

On the other hand, if Pamphilon wasn’t acting as a journalist, then the case that he “had” to release the footage in service of some elusive Truth is a lot harder to make. Either way, he was entrusted with access and took advantage of that trust. The question of whether or not it was justified depends on how you see his role.

Steve Gleason, whom Pamphilon was trailing (and by whom Pamphilon got access),¬†[says that he and his family ultimately own Pamphilon’s footage][2]. If so, then Pamphilon wasn’t acting as a journalist, but abusing a dying man’s trust, which is sad.