Debate: Should Media Report on Tim Cook's Sexuality?

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Tim Cook in 2009 (Credit: Wikipedia)

Tim Cook was the COO of Apple until last week, when Steve Jobs’ resignation made Cook CEO of the company.

In response, Reuters’ Felix Salmon argued in an Aug. 25 post that the media shouldn’t “ignore Tim Cook’s sexuality.”  Salmon stated that his  new role as CEO makes him “the most powerful gay man in the world.”

The question, though, is whether Cook’s sexuality is relevant, especially since he hasn’t broached or commented on it.  Salmon notes “we can and should be celebrating, if only in the name of diversity,” that Cook is gay.  But, since his “sexuality is irrelevant to his role at Apple” and reporting on Cook centers on his role at Apple, Cook’s sexuality isn’t reported, Salmon noted.

Salmon explained:

“The first instinct of many journalists writing about Cook will be to ignore the issue of his sexuality. It’s not germane to his job, they’re only writing about him because of the job he holds, and therefore they shouldn’t write about it.”

But, Salmon claims that the media should write and include Cook’s sexuality.

“There’s no ethical dilemma when it comes to reporting on Cook’s sexuality: rather, the ethical dilemma comes in not reporting it, thereby perpetuating the idea that there’s some kind of stigma associated with being gay. Yes, the stigma does still exist in much of society. But it’s not the job of the press to perpetuate it. Quite the opposite.”

However, is Salmon right?  After all, as he noted,  Cook “is not exactly open about his sexuality, and Apple has never said anything about it.”  Salmon argued that because Cook will have such a high-profile role, he can’t prevent his sexuality being made public.

Ars Technica highlighted Cook’s attempts to keep his private life just that and noted that “facts are few and far between” regarding Cook. And, Ars Technica noted:

“Without Cook being open about it, it’s something journalists can only speculate (or gossip) about based on other less solid sources.”

Likewise, The Atlantic Wire noted that GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram noted he’s “not sure Tim Cook’s sexuality is an issue until he makes it one” and Mogulite’s Hillary Reinsberg suggested that Cook’s separation of his personal and professional life in the media should be maintained.

And Ars Technica compared the media’s lack of a clear line between personal and private in reporting on Jobs’ cancer battle and Cook’s sexuality, suggesting the media is going too far in reporting on people’s private lives in the name of the public interest:

“Voyeurism isn’t the right word, but whatever it is, it is still there. We’ve just moved the justification of our journalistic ingress into private lives from shareholder interest to social justice.”

In a follow-up post, Salmon noted that he has received “significant pushback” to his comments “from both inside and outside Reuters.” He denied that reporting on Cook’s sexuality would invade Cook’s privacy, instead arguing that it comes with his position as Apple’s CEO.

What do you think?

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Debate: Should Media Report on Tim Cook’s Sexuality?

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