a hidden life

Discussion Questions

  1. Define "privacy." To what extent do public officials have a right to privacy?
  2. What is the role of the news media in a democratic society?
  3. When referring to the allegation that Mayor Jim West was pursuing underage boys online, why do you think editor Steven Smith differentiated between a legitimate news story and one that is not legitimate when he said, "If he's [Mayor Jim West] engaged in this activity ... we need to know that. If he's not -- there's no story" ?
  4. How did reporter Bill Morlin justify the use of a concealed identity on Gay.com as part of The Spokesman-Review's and the FBI's "sting operation"? Why didn't Morlin himself create the assumed identity to engage Mayor West online?
  5. Under what circumstances, and by whom, is it appropriate to conduct a "sting operation"? (Consider different scenarios such as the media, the government or a private citizen with a suspicion about another private citizen.)
  6. Why do you think The Spokesman-Review ultimately published so many articles on Mayor West's alleged improprieties?
  7. Is Mayor West a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
  8. Explain the title "A Hidden Life" from the perspective of:
    • The Spokesman-Review
    • Mayor West
    • the citizens of Spokane, Wash.
  9. In the final analysis, who benefited from The Spokesman-Review's decision to expose Mayor West and his alleged improprieties? Who was hurt? Do you think the outcome was worth it? Explain your reasoning.