This sample journalism essay explores the 101-second video was posted on the site, along with a written piece entitled. Even for a Minute, Watching Hulk Hogan Have Sex in a Canopy Bed is Not Safe For Work but Watch it Anyway, written by ex-Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio. The post and video featured Hogan having sex with Heather Clem, the wife of Hogan’s then best friend, Florida radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem (Clem). Clem and Heather subsequently divorced (Greenberg).
The Hulk Hogan case
Hulk Hogan, the former professional wrestler, reality TV personality, and business entrepreneur, won a $140 million verdict against Gawker, a celebrity gossip website, for posting a video of him having sex with his former BFF’s wife (Greenberg; File). The jury awarded the damages to the wrestler after determining that the media company violated Hogan’s (aka Terry Bollea) constitutional rights to privacy.
The First Amendment and journalism
Hogan filed suit against Gawker in 2012. After failing initially on a copyright claim against the media giant in federal court, Hogan joined Gawker as defendants on an already initiated privacy suit against the Clems. The First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, prohibits abridging ones’ freedom of speech and infringing on the freedom of the press (U.S. Constitution. Amend. I.). Specifically:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances (U.S. Constitution. Amend. I.).
Right to privacy vs. freedom of the press
At issue in Hogan’s case is a celebrity’s right to privacy versus the press’ right to publish newsworthy information. At question is a subject with a long history of strong conflicting points of view (“Right of Privacy”). The press vociferously attempts to protect its right to print the truth and celebrities continuously struggle to protect those aspects of their lives perceived as personal. Gawker argued that Hogan is a public figure, and as such his sex life is a matter of public concern, adding the video of Hogan was newsworthy, as evinced by the fact that they did not tie the video to advertising revenues, consequently, he had no legitimate expectation of privacy because the video was protected speech (Greenberg).
In addition, they cited that Hogan promoted the existence of the video after the fact, by going to numerous media organizations, like Howard Stern, and was effectively bragging about its existence. Further, the supporting article discussed the value of watching the video, saying it shows us that celebrities are just like us. Hogan, on the other hand, argued that the media giant violated his right to privacy because he did not know that he was being filmed, he was never asked for his permission to have the video released, the company acted with reckless disregard for his privacy, and the coverage amounted to media bias (Greenberg).
The jury’s verdict
After six hours of deliberation, the jury expressed its firm disagreement with Gawker’s perspective, in what is arguably one of the largest monetary awards in the history of media invasion of privacy cases, Hogan was awarded $115 million in economic damages and emotional distress, and $25.1 million in punitive damages (Abbruzzese).
The jury award, in fact, gave Hogan more in monetary damages than he sought in his filings. The result demonstrates a bright-line conclusion – celebrities have the right of privacy when they are engaged in intimate moments and are filmed without their permission, as well when the film is thereafter distributed without their permission.
The press will ultimately respond with but . . . but . . . but . . . chilling effect . . . but . . . but . . . but . . .. But, hopefully, this will squash other media opportunities to humiliate in this fashion.
Gawker, known for its dearth of journalistic integrity, is an example of what has come to be known as yellow journalism and unreliable news and web sources. Yellow journalism is a style of reporting and broadcasting where news items are not especially well-researched, and which employs salacious and licentious headlines to create sticky eyeballs through the use of hyperbole, public humiliation and sensationalism, with the goal of driving more traffic, selling more advertising or peddling more newspapers.
Yellow journalism can be found most typically in tabloid papers, such as the Globe and National Enquirer, however the style, in fact, goes beyond that. Media coverage of President Barack Obama and his campaigns were targeted by biased media coverage throughout his presidency. The so-called legitimate press also cross the line into yellow journalism when it simply goes too far, like in the case of The New Yorker Magazine that posted a cover of then Senator Barack Obama and Michelle Obama fist pumping, dressed in jihadist attire, with a framed picture of Osama Bin Laden on the wall of the Oval Office and an American flag burning in the fireplace (Gaskell). The magazine editor, David Remnick, described the cover as satire, and was quite surprised by the backlash received.
Yellow journalism made its initial appearance in a media war between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, in the 1890 (“Yellow Journalism”). In an effort to sell the most papers and in a stance of one-upmanship, Hearst and Pulitzer made use of egregious levels of melodrama and embellishment to grab the favor of their readership. In the drive to become the darling of the newspapers:
Hearst relied upon the topic of Cuba to inflame the passions and pull at the heartstrings of his readers. His reporters spoke of horrible events that “occurred” in Cuba, like women taken as prisoners and starving children.
Ultimately, when the Battleship Maine sank in the harbor near Havana, Hearst had his story. Without evidence or investigation, Hearst placed the blame on Spain. Historians describe the Spanish-American War as a press-fueled and inspired war. This statement may be a bit of melodrama in and of itself, but it is reasonable to conclude that the papers flamed the passions of the public (“Yellow Journalism”).
Hogan’s illustrious career
Hulk Hogan and Clem were besties at a point (Mullin). Clem said that he liked to see his wife having sex with other men, so he asked his buddy Hogan to fulfill his request. Howard Stern indicated in an interview that the Florida shock jock had asked him to have sex with his wife as well, Stern says he declined, thinking that Clem was just joking (Fallon). Apparently, Hogan took Clem up on his offer. The resulting film is from a security camera Clem had in his bedroom (Marsh). There is a dispute as to whether Hogan was aware that he was being filmed (Greenberg). At some point, an anonymous person provided the DVD to Gawker.
Hogan history in wrestling
Hogan gained an interest in wrestling during his high school years (“Hulk Hogan”). He attended college but never completed his degree because he really enjoyed wrestling. He lifted weights and worked out in a nearby gym and met to brothers who were influential in getting him started. Eventually he began his career touring in a small circuit. Hogan later met Vincent McMahon, owner of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), who offered him an opportunity to join his organization. It was McMahon who suggested that he take the name Hulk Hogan because of his massive size and his similarity to the comic book hero the Incredible Hulk.
In 1980, Hogan wrestled against Andre the Giant, won the competition, and the respect of millions of fans. Four years later Hogan won the WWF championship belt after shellacking Iron Sheik and was known to more wrestling fans than Dusty Rhodes. From this point, Hogan became a luminary superhero. His fans were so passionate they started calling him Hulkamania and the name became part of the WWF promotion (“Hulk Hogan”). Professional wrestling grew in influence as a result of his success. He became the face of many products and started making moderately successful films, including No Holds Barred (1989), Mr. Nanny (1993) and Santa with Muscles (1996) (“Hulk Hogan”).
Investigations into the WWF regarding the distribution of anabolic steroids and the subsequent trial had a negative impact on Hogan’s career, and he had to leave wrestling and films (“Hulk Hogan”). Hogan did experience a comeback, however, when he teamed up with Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and wrestlers Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, renaming himself Hollywood Hogan (“Hulk Hogan”).
Hogan reality TV personality
Hogan wrote an autobiography about his life entitled Hollywood Hulk Hogan, in addition to staring in a reality TV show named Hogan Knows Best (2005) (“Hulk Hogan”). The program showed life with the Hogan family, including Linda, his wife, Brooke, his daughter, and Nick, his son. The program focused on family problems and parenting issues, and was popular for about four years. Not too long thereafter, Hogan’s wife Linda filed for divorce (“Hulk Hogan”).
Although Linda filed for divorce, she was not aware of the sex tape Hulk Hogan had made with Heather Clem during their marriage (“Linda Hogan”). When the scandal erupted, she expressed hurt over Hogan’s actions, but stated that she was not surprised. Linda indicated that she knew he was having affairs, but she still found it painful and an embarrassment to the family (“Linda Hogan”). A motion filed in court revealed the Hogan’s divorce settlement in which Linda gained about 70% of liquid assets, a property settlement of about $3 million, several cars, 40% interest in businesses and $7.44 million of money held in financial accounts (Nessif).
Hogan the businessman
Hogan continued in other ventures and has remained successful (“Hulk Hogan”). He co-hosted American Gladiators (2008), which had amateur athletes compete with the show’s professionals, where they tried to match toughness and endurance. The program, which lasted for two seasons, was co-hosted with Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali. Hogan later became the host and executive producer of Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling (2008), a show that created competitions as celebrity wrestlers. Among some of the celebrity competitors were Danny Bonaduce and Todd Bridges. In fact, Hogan must have made up with his old bestie, because Bubba the Love Sponge Clem is listed as a cast member, as well.
Abbruzzese, Jason. “Gawker’s founder ordered to pay $10 million of his own money in the Hulk Hogan case.” Mashable. Mashable, Inc. 21 March 2016. Web. 31 March 2016. http://mashable.com/2016/03/21/hulk-hogan-trial-punitive-damages/#PHLxXUXbiiqI.
Fallon, Kevin. “Nine Craziest Things About Hulk Hogan’s Sex Tape Scandal.” The Daily Beast. 18 October 2012. Web. 31 March 2016. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/18/nine-craziest-things-about-hulk-hogan-s-sex-tape-scandal.html.
File, Patrick. “One View: Hulk Hogan v. Gawker is in fact a First Amendment case.” Reno Gazette Journal. USA Today Network. 30 March 2016. Web. 31 March 2016. http://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/voices/2016/03/30/one-view-hulk-hogan-v-gawker-fact-first-amendment-case/82441760/.
Gaskell, Stephanie. “New Yorker mag’s ‘satire’ cover draws Team Obama’s ire.” The Daily News. NYDailyNews.com. 14 June 2016. Web. 31 March 2016. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-yorker-mag-satire-cover-draws-team-obama-ire-article-1.347431.
Greenberg, Julia. “Court Orders Gawker to Pay Hulk Hogan $115M for Posting His Sex Tape.” Wired. Conde Nast. 18 March 2016. Web. 31 March 2016. http://www.wired.com/2016/03/jury-awards-hulk-hogan-115-million-gawker-sex-tape-post/.
“Hulk Hogan.” Biography.com. AE Television Networks, LLC. n. d. Web. 30 March 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/hulk-hogan-9542305#aspiring-wrestler.
“Linda Hogan ‘Devastated’ But Not ‘Shocked’ Over Hulk Sex Tape: It’s ‘An Embarrassment For Our Family’.” Access Hollywood. NBC Universal, Inc. 29 October 2012. Web. 31 March 2016. http://www.accesshollywood.com/articles/linda-hogan-devastated-but-not-shocked-over-hulk-sex-tape-its-an-embarrassment-for-our-family-125111/.
Marsh, Julia. “Hogan sex-tape hottie: My husband demanded I have sex with Hulk.” NY Post. NYP Holdings. 16 March 2016. Web. 31 March 2016. http://nypost.com/2016/03/16/hogan-sex-tape-hottie-i-had-no-idea-hubby-was-filming-us/.
Mullins, Benjamin. “FBI confirms existence of 3 sex tapes in Hulk Hogan lawsuit.” Poynter. The Poynter Institute. 28 June 2015. Web. 31 March 2016. http://www.poynter.org/2015/fbi-confirms-existence-of-3-sex-tapes-in-hulk-hogan-lawsuit/353919/.
Nessif, Bruna. “Hulk and Linda Hogan’s Divorce Settlement Revealed.” E! Online. E! Entertainment Television, LLC. A Division of NBCUniversal. 23 November 2011. Web. 31 March 2016. http://www.eonline.com/news/276772/hulk-and-linda-hogan-s-divorce-settlement-revealed.
“Right of Privacy vs. Free Press.” 1953. Indiana Law Journal. Digital Repository. Web. 31 March 2016. http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2442context=ilj.
U.S. Constitution. Amend. I.
“Yellow Journalism.” PBS. Great Projects Film Company, Inc. n.d.. Web. 31 March 2016, http://www.pbs.org/crucible/journalism.html.