2010-03-18 / Sam Bari

Readers like scandal, not fair and impartial reporting

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

Yes, it is true. I fully admit that I occasionally bash the media for taking the “sensationalism” road by printing misleading headlines. Then, the body copy tells the “juicy” facts in a way that will attract alleged “inquiring minds.”

And yes, I am a card-carrying journalist who claims to report news from an unbiased view by doing my best to give every story balance. However, I am not guilty of bashing my colleagues.

Reporters and writers handle assignments the way they are told to write them. That’s why they call them assignments.

The editor, publisher, department head or whoever is in charge of the stable of writers at any publication hands down an edict to cover an event, incident or other newsworthy item. Reporters are reminded that their bosses are in the news business. That means they sell news. As long as they continue to do so, the reporters have jobs.

That is the mentality that causes media frenzy. Articles that are not going to affect the lives of readers often sell because people are fundamentally nosy and they love scandals.

Because so many readers are closet busybodies, they will feast on these items for months. Those stories are job security for reporters that are continually reminded that their jobs hinge on the success of the articles they are writing today.

Does it really make sense that any athlete or politician’s extramarital affairs should get more major headlines and consistent coverage than a war that is sucking the life out of our economy? Of course it doesn’t.

The outcome of a war affects the future of every citizen in this country. I would like to think that the average citizen would take interest in our involvement and how the conflict is progressing. Our future existence as a nation could very well depend on it.

Do we get that information from the newspapers and television? We must not, or statesmen like Patrick Kennedy wouldn’t rant before Congress about the irresponsibility of the press corps.

However, I do not blame the members of the press corps. Their bosses tell them where to go and what to write. Their reports are then reviewed, edited and reviewed again before they are published to assure that the articles are written to the best advantage of the publication.

In other words, reporters are told to make everything they cover sound important so people will buy newspapers and magazines. The media moguls understand human nature. If an event or incident appeals to the finger-pointing, holier-than-thou, witch-hunting readers, they will pounce on it like sharks on a feeding frenzy.

Did you ever consider why you never read a scandalous article about some hapless politician, athlete or movie star with a headline like: “Shameless cocktail waitress lures NBA star away from his wife and family.”

Do you really believe that a handsome, wealthy athlete has diffi culty attracting women of questionable morality? I don’t think so. Yet the sleazy waitress, stripper or fan is always portrayed as the victim of these so-called predators who use their wealth to take advantage of the defenseless.

I’ve seen it. Women are constantly throwing themselves at wealthy, high profile athletes, politicians and movie stars. It’s their shot at the good life, and if an opportunity presents itself, they often take advantage of it. That’s their business.

I don’t condone the behavior of the men involved. I am sure it must be flattering to get the attention, and it would take a strong will not to succumb to temptation. But they are often the victims and not the initiators of the scandalous relationships.

If one of the women participating in such an affair admitted the truth and said, “I got his attention and I flirted with him. He was in town for two days and I encouraged the relationship. I knew he was married. We had a fabulous time. Then I sent him back to his wife, and I got a diamond bracelet and some good memories that I don’t regret.”

That quote would never be printed. People like to see the successful knocked from their pedestals.

Like P.T. Barnum said, “I’m in the business of entertainment. I give people what they want to see when they want to see it.”

That works for the media, too, especially when it is doing business in a system that we can’t understand.

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