Investigations: The Busybodies on the Bus

As reporters feed lower on the news chain, public figures face shifting standards for their private conduct

Society's busiest busybodies are in the press, where, under cover of the Constitution, they expose, scold and ridicule public figures, and sometimes win Pulitzer Prizes for it. In the putative national interest, reporters have taken on the roles of mother superior, party boss, neighborhood snoop and cop on the beat. No one knows exactly what the moral code is, but anyone who runs for office, or otherwise pre-empts public attention, violates it at his peril.

We do know, however, that in its police function the press relies less on the Constitution than on the Ten Commandments, although not all of them....

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