“Close to Obscene” for Media to Replay Victims’ 911 Calls: Columnist


Citing the often-replayed words of Julia Hudson, sister of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, from a frantic 911 call to Chicago's Emergency Communications Center when she discovered the body of the first of three family members who were murdered in 2008, columnist Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune objects to media’s reflexively airing and publishing the text of 911 messages.

“I've long felt that it's close to obscene to play the most intimate, raw sounds of shock and pain experienced by those experiencing the effects of crime, given how little news value the recordings have,” says Zorn. “And the fact that we can — that 911 recordings are part of the public record — doesn't mean we should.” Zorn agrees that the material should remain public so that functioning of our emergency response system can be monitored. But he argues that “playing the audio simply to dramatize the depths of someone's agony is abusive, not only of the privacy rights of the person who called 911 looking for help, not to offer up their darkest moment for the delectation of the masses, but also of the listener or viewer who'd rather not hear it.”

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