The Fifth Estate, the community of amateur/aspiring journalists who either blog, freelance or write via some other medium, has been swarming around the conjecture that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, is gay, according to The Poynter Institute, a “school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders,” whose website is commended as an information hub of press innovations.In a recent post, it explores the differing views on whether investigating or reporting Kagan’s sexual preference is appropriate, as it has not been confirmed that she is a lesbian by The Fourth Estate (the mainstream news media) or by Kagan herself. The Atlantic‘s Andrew Sullivan said, “The mainstream media are squeamish on the matter of homosexual orientation and need not be when we are dealing at this level of public life at this moment in the evolution of gay visibility. Washington City Paper‘s Amanda Hess contended with Sullivan, saying, “By not revealing her sexual orientation…Kagan is ‘just expecting to be treated with the same respect afforded to the 111 Supreme Court justices who have come before her — justices whose sexual orientation was never considered a political issue.'” National Public Radio feels Kagan’s orientation is not pertinent to her confirmation coverage. Slate asserts that the press only hunts for hypocrisy as a reason to expose public figures’ more private dealings. Others, like Michael Triplett, a journalist and lawyer on the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association‘s directors board, maintains that the public’s curiosity apropos Kagan’s love interests is not a shock, since she is a middle-aged woman, who has never been wed and is still single––all of which, Triplett believes, piques public interest. The article ends noting that Google Hot Trends no longer has Kagan’s possible lesbianism as a top hit. The piece also leads into a riveting and fiery discussion with members of the Poynter community.
There are a few good defenses on both sides of this discourse. Someone insisting that Kagan’s personal is open to public chatter and inspection could argue that her personal convictions can influence her decisions as a justice, as Triplett points out in the article . If a liberal-professing nominee, with hardly any record like Kagan, privately held right-wing stances, such as a position against abortion, eager liberals in the American populace would want to know, since such a standpoint might shape the laws of their land. So it is reasonable for people to prod Kagan’s life. On the other foot, journalists are commissioned by a fact-desiring citizenry and by a built-in enthusiasm for the truth. Because no facts support Kagan’s amorous inclinations, the story drops like a rock amid a canyon of germane news coverage. If in an exclusive feature on the nominee she divulges that the over-speculation is accurate, then, this school of thought would argue, it is allowable to report. On another point, the hypocrisy justification that Sullivan exposes does actually occur, as evidenced in the countless cases where public figures were revealed to practice the opposite of what they proclaim. A Christian preacher’s change of sexual preference, like Ted Haggard, a tree-hugger’s private jet, like Al Gore, or even a healthy diet promoter’s unhealthy consumption habits, like Michelle Obama, will all be apt for societal dialogue, and journalists should cover such news breaks; however, they shouldn’t go searching for them as a pig hastily sniffs for black truffle.