Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Michael, Tiger and Ed

Do you recognize these men? I suspect you know two of them. Michael is Michael Jackson, his death garnering more media attention than President Reagan’s funeral. Tiger is Tiger Woods, his philandering capturing near continuous media attention with each new girlfriend revealed.

But who is Ed? We know every detail about Michael, the little boys, the drugs, everything. We know every detail about Tiger, even which golf club damaged his car and the name of every woman he “encountered.”

But who is Ed? Do we know anything about Ed? Do we care? Should we care? How does the media decide who is newsworthy? To whom do the media answer?

What is public and what is private?

Does the public have a right to know everything?  Does freedom of the press have any limits?  Is anything private?  Is everything fair game?  How might Tiger Woods answer these questions?   “Yes, no, no, yes.”  Moreover, these questions have little to do with any claimed right to privacy, and all to do with the Constitution. 

As it turns out, most anything the media reports is constitutionally protected by “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press.”  You would assume this scrutiny is reserved for a public figure, whatever that is.  But public figure is a legal term used when suing for defamation of character.  Moreover, if the court decides you are a “public figure,” proving defamation is not enough, you must also prove the media acted with “reckless disregard for the truth,” acted with malice.

Virginia Tech, one year later

April 16, 2008 is the first anniversary of the 32 people murdered on the Virginia Tech campus.  The state of Virginia has reached a legal settlement with most victims’ families.  The reactions to this settlement, the ongoing evaluations of what occurred that day, and the many assertions of who is to blame for the tragedy continues.  

Rights and responsibilities of free press

The first amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech or of the press . . .” Conspicuously absent is mention of any responsibility accompanying this right, although Benjamin Franklin, in the Apology for Printers published in 1731, suggested there were responsibilities saying, “I have also always refus’d to print such things as might do real injury to any Person . . .”

Even military critics enjoy free speech

Thomas Jefferson said, “My God!  How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” Proof of his statement echoes from the Berkeley, California city council chambers.  They approved sending a letter to the Marine Corp Recruiting office informing the marines they were “not welcome” in Berkeley.  The council added, “If recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.”  During that council meeting they also derided the marines with statements like “trained killers” and “the president’s own gangsters.”   How should we respond to this anti-military, anti-American behavior?  Is it acceptable for elected officials to behave this way?  Should there be consequences for their choices?  In the aftermath of the Berkeley council’s statements, U.S. senators introduced legislation to rescind $2.3 million of federal transportation funds to Berkeley.  Following the news of the proposed legislation, the Berkeley city council voted to not send the letter while the mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates, said the city did not mean to offend anyone in the military.  Does he expect us to believe their statements were not intentionally offensive?  The city council believed they were taking a principled, difficult position. But as soon as they learned of potential consequences resulting from their actions, they quickly abandoned their position suggesting their principles are negotiable.  But, they still refused to apologize to the Marines, saying they were only “clarifying their position,” and statements like “trained killers” did not warrant an apology. 

How objective is media reporting on gun control?

The Idaho State Journal recently offered editorial support for gun control, taking the path of most media, assuming guns are a problem and gun control will solve that problem.  They referenced the Jason Hamilton murders when they complimented the University of Idaho for banning guns on campus, calling it a wise decision.

They overlooked an important fact explaining why Hamilton is actually proof legislated gun control fails.  They failed to report that Hamilton had been ordered by the court not to possess any firearms.  So much for court ordered safety.