Lucien R. McRobbie, 18, has been arrested on marijuana charges. Ordinarily, most of us would never know that. People who rob banks or stab people in bars or commit other felonies usually have their names published in the newspapers and announced on TV as part of their lawbreaking experience. The thousands and thousands of people who commit misdemeanors, which these marijuana charges are, do not. There just isn't enough print space or air time. So why pick on McRobbie? Because of one of his relatives:
The son of Indiana University president Michael McRobbie faces marijuana charges after police searched his dorm room on the Bloomington campus.
Lucien R. McRobbie, 18, was arrested Saturday and faces preliminary charges of possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia, both misdemeanors.
There are certain people the press treats differently, no matter what their guidelines on ethics and sensitivity say, and many times the difference can be justified. Movie stars and other celebrities seek fame and to some extent depend on publicity for their livelihoods, so it rings hollow when they complain about the press dogging them. And politicians have the ability to bend us to their will through the force of law, so I don't feel bad about focusing attention on every aspect of their lives, public or private.
But it becomes less defensible, I think, when we shine the spotlight on the relatives of the famous or powerful in ways we wouldn't on ordinary people. I've seen some "What would you do?" exercises in ethics that include, as one example, the drug arrest of a son of an official who got elected as an anti-drug crusader. That one I might defend, but I'm having trouble with the coverage of the IU president's son. Now, if his son gets treated differently because he's the president's son, that would be newsworthy, but no one is suggesting that's the case.