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By ERIC DEGGANS
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 4, 2000
Is it okay to violate someone's privacy to tell a story about violating his privacy?
That's the question WFLA-AM 970 radio personality Glenn Beck says he's struggling with after participating in a story aired Tuesday by WTVT-Ch. 13 about a government Web site that contains personal information on Hillsborough County residents.
Beck talked to WTVT investigative reporter Glenn Selig about the Web site, which allows users to plug in any name and look up a person's address, the value of his home and even the floor plan. During the taping, Beck looked up his own information, which is available to anyone, despite the fact that he has an unlisted telephone number and tries to guard his privacy. Later, Selig showed footage of homes owned by sports stars Fred McGriff, Derek Jeter and Wade Boggs, all by using the site.
But Beck said he had no idea Selig planned to talk about the Web site or have him look up his own name. WTVT's story showed Beck scanning a page of numbers, presumably showing the value of his house, along with his home's floor plan (the actual address was obscured).
And despite featuring quotes from the radio personality saying how much he valued his privacy, Selig later sent a news van and a helicopter to get footage of Beck's home without telling him in advance.
"I (was) watching the story and I'm torn -- it's a really good story, but I feel like I've been set up, big time," said Beck, who lives in a gated community and wouldn't allow WTVT's news van to film his home. After WTVT sent the helicopter, he called the station's vice president of news to complain and talked about the incident during his radio show.
"I thought I was going to be one (guy) with one comment in a big story," he adds. "But it was like this story was saying, "Look how easy it is to find Glenn Beck.' "
Selig defends the story, saying WTVT didn't use any footage of Beck's home in the broadcast, didn't give the Web site address and that Beck didn't object as he was filmed looking at the Web site during the interview.
So why didn't he get Beck's okay before sending a news van and helicopter to his home?
"He was somebody in the media business. . . . I made an assumption he would know . . . we were going to (tape footage of his home)," says Selig, who denied Beck's complaint persuaded him to leave images of his house out of the story. "We're dealing with someone who is pretty media-savvy. I don't think we were unfair at all."
But Beck, who has been threatened by angry callers to his radio show, feels Selig misled him into revealing more about himself than he intended.
"Their sole premise was that invasion of privacy is wrong . . . and then they do it to me," says Beck. "I'm really disappointed in how all this was handled. While I appreciate all the exposure, I'm not sure it's the kind I want."
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