Is an Executive a Public Figure?

Last Updated Mar 5, 2008 12:44 PM EST

Our last poll dealt with possible role of blog insults in the suicide of advertising executive Paul Tillley. In the New York Times article about the role of the blogs in Tilley's death, the anonymous author of Agency Spy, one of the blogs that was critical of Tilley, justified her critiques with the argument that Tilley was a "public figure" because of his leadership position.

I have a hard time with this defense. While I agree with her contention that "the definition has changed" in the information age, I'm not comfortable with the notion that a successful advertising executive has risen to the level of an elected official, or even a big-name CEO, where personal attacks are an accepted part of the job.

What do you think?[poll id=21]Have an opinion on this changing definition of what constitutes a "public figure?" Leave it in our comments section.

Have a workplace-ethics dilemma you'd like to see in this poll? Email wherestheline (at)

  • William Baker

    William Baker is a freelance writer living in Cambridge, MA. His work has appeared in Popular Science, the Boston Globe Magazine, the New York Daily News, Boston Magazine, The Weekly Dig and a bunch of other places (including Field & Stream, though he doesn't hunt and can't really fish). He is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe, where he writes the weekly column, "Meeting the Minds." He holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is at work on his first book.