The Power of the Media
I’ve read two articles recently that struck me, both illustrating the power of the media to distort truth and damage lives. Growing up, I seem to remember thinking the news was pretty impartial, stating facts and pretty much leaving it at that. The editorials section of the paper had some opiniated pieces, sure, but on the whole, the facts were presented with the reader left to conclude what it meant. Now, it seems all we have are editorialists, and we tune into Fox or MSNBC to get the slant we most generally agree with. Maybe I’m wrong, and the “golden age” of impartial journalism never existed.
A lot of us know about Ben Roethlisberger’s idiotic drunken escapade. We’ve heard the story about that night. But what most of us didn’t know the first story, the one that came out the night of the incident:
“13. THE ACCUSER HERSELF WAS UNCERTAIN ABOUT THE MATTER. When the officer on the spot said “I need to talk to the alleged victim, not [the sorority sisters],” he asked the accuser if Roethlisberger had raped her. She said:
(A). “No.” (DA news conference; PART 2, starts 2:42, key point: about 4:10: http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/video/index.html [also at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaRGdYizw7g])
(B) When asked if the two had sex, she said “well, I’m not sure.” (DA interview, PART 2, starts 2:42, key point: about 4:20: http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/video/index.html [also at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaRGdYizw7g]).
- (Blash also said she seemed inebriated, incoherent, “nonchalant,” and at times seemed to to want to tell someone that “y’all did whatever.”)”
It’s a fascinating read. When the media picks and chooses what information to provide to the public, they guide the story rather than report it. Did Roethlisberger do it? He did something. At the very least he acted like an overgrown and overpaid buffon, and needs to get his life together. Does he deserve to have his career derailed? Well, maybe not. It depends on what you hear and believe.
Then there is this man. You might remember him as the guy who sent those anthrax letters back in 2001, but you probably don’t. Steven Hatfill was never charged with a crime, but the media happily aided and abetted the authorities in destroying his life based solely on leaked circumstantial evidence. Imagine yourself, innocent of a crime, and hounded and harrassed and villified by an entire country who has no desire to listen to your story. It reminds me of the poor guy who found the bomb at the Olympics in Atlanta. A hero, right? No, he became convicted by an overzealous media at investigators’ behest, and killed himself later. In America. Land of the Free. Innocent until proven guilty. Not anymore. Corrections are found on page A15.