The private lives of public individuals considered

There’s a small update and a larger question about the Los Angeles TV reporter who had some sort of health problem that everyone but she and the TV station she works for seems ready to acknowledge.

Serene Branson talked unintelligibly in her live-shot from the Grammys. Her TV station said paramedics said she was fine and she refused treatment, although today the station says she’s consulting a doctor.

“That’s exactly the wrong thing,” an expert on strokes tells the New York Times about her refusal to seek immediate help. “Even if it wasn’t a stroke, you need to get it checked out. It’s a tremendous opportunity for her to talk about what stroke is and what T.I.A. is, and what to do. You don’t go home. This is a 911 scenario. Her risk of stroke for the first few days after an event like that is extremely high,” according to Dr. Daniel Labovitz, assistant professor of neurology at Einstein School of Medicine and attending stroke neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

Which brings up the question: Does a reporter have any obligation to reveal things about his/her personal life in the interest of telling a story that needs to be told?

“The nature of this kind of injury is that the patient is the last to know there is a problem,” he said. “I would guess that until she saw the video she wasn’t aware of how bad it was. You can only feel for her. She’s got a real chance here to get a message out,” Dr. Labovitz tells the New York Times.

  • RF

    I was in a training session a few years ago when the instructor had a similar problem. He excused himself for a few minutes and came back to try to continue (class ended awkwardly soon after). A classmate knew his wife and told her about it. He ended up in surgery weeks later for a brain tumor (he recovered).

    Re: public figures, it’s a tough call. Because TV news reporters are so often revered in their communities, it’s a good opportunity to educate, but at the same time there shouldn’t be an *obligation* to tell the public.

  • jon

    Bob, is this your way of telling us you have major health issues and you are unsure if you should say anything on news cut?

    Get better soon!!! ;)

  • Sara B

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this story. I think social media has given us the venue for dialogue and hopefully education on the subject. Last night a friend posted the video to their Facebook wall with a joking comment. Quickly a friend responded that they believed she was exhibiting signs of a stroke. It was followed by a comment that she was too young and probably hadn’t had any “blunt hits to the head” to warrant a stroke. This expanded to a dialogue about ischemic attacks and stroke symptoms. Similarly, I read almost identical commentary (primarily educational) on an article posted by Rick Chandler on msnbc.com comparing Ms. Branson’s situation to Miss Teen S. Carolina’s moment, it has since been removed.

    So, to answer your question, no I don’t think a reporter is under any obligation to reveal anything about their private life, in order to tell a story. I believe there are still ways for a story to be told and the public to receive education, much like the NY Times did with their story.