By Larry Williams
It would not be uncommon to look at our society as a measure of how we recognize people and reward achievement. You can see great examples of this on your local evening news when they recognize a “teacher of the week” or other “feel good story” about exemplary community service. Similarly, stories of heroism in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Marathon Bombing, the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion or the tornado in Moore Oklahoma are great examples where there is no shortage of great stories that are borne out of tragic situations. These stories inspire viewers and remind us of the good in people and their willingness to help others.
Not Everything Demands Equal Time
As of late, the media sadly seems to be giving equal time to stories and poor role models that are not deserving of our time and attention. I see more and more media outlets abandoning any sense of responsible journalism for a more ratings-oriented form of tabloid journalism. What’s worse, it’s almost as if they are scared to denounce inappropriate behavior for fear it would go against the beliefs of the mainstream viewer.
A case in point was the week that followed the Marathon Bombing. As it often happens during a tragic event, American’s came together in support of the victims and media outlets were quick to recognize our brave citizens along side of breaking news. But the more days that past, the more it became almost predictable the tabloid style of journalism would once again rear its ugly head. True to their unspoken word – it happened about one week after the tragedy.
The first was Boston Red Sox outfielder David Ortiz. As the home team took to the field for the first time since the tragedy, David Ortiz addressed the crowd on the microphone with the words, “This is our f***ing city!” I can only imagine the eyebrows that were raised by parents who brought their kids to the ballpark. The same parents who probably spent the better part of the week counseling their kids, praying and pointing out the good in people.
Can’t The Media Just Say “It Was Wrong!”
Besides the fact the game was broadcast to a national audience, the flub went viral and was reported by nearly every news agency in the nation. Here’s the sad part. Nobody denounced the indiscretion. They used words like “passionate” and “in the moment”. Really? Have we really become that desensitized to the “F bomb” that it cannot even be called inappropriate and wrong?
The second viral video was from a first day anchor by the name of A.J. Clemente who used the words “f***ing s**t” when the live broadcast went to air. He was subsequently fired – the appropriate action as far as I’m concerned. We need not worry about him getting another chance with another media outlet. If he works hard, I’m sure he will redeem himself, land another job and learn a valuable lesson. Again, media was quick to chalk it up to nerves and be forgiving. I personally would have gone a step further and cite that had this not been a part of his regular vocabulary – this probably never would have happened.
The greater screw-up, in my opinion, came when the Today Show decided to invite him to the set for an interview. Matt Lauer and his co-anchors shared in laughing it off and asked him about the lessons he learned. Clemente also got the incredible opportunity to appear on the MSNBC show Morning Joe where he sat next to the legendary broadcaster Tom Brokaw. The bigger question is – wouldn’t this valuable “on-air” time (and opportunity to meet Brokaw) be better served by recognizing any of the valiant reporters who risked life and limb during Hurricane Sandy or the Marathon Bombing? This sends a clear message that all one has to do is drop the “F Bomb”, go viral and you can get a coveted spot on the Today Show.
Abandoning a Time-Honored Journalistic Ethical Code
I personally believe that both foul language incidents were made worse by the way they were embraced and not denounced in the media. There was once a time when the media had a moral obligation to follow an unwritten ethical code of responsibility when reporting. It appears those days are sadly behind us. But when the objective is to change public opinion and create a story – all bets are off. Just think for a moment how the media demands apologies from politicians, business people and others when they say something questionable. Why did they not demand it here?
Allow me to get something out of the way. I am not personally immune to swearing. Sadly, it happens from time to time. I am far from perfect. However I recognize how seriously wrong it would be to do so in public and especially on a microphone. More so, I certainly wouldn’t make excuses for it or proudly embrace it. So what are your thoughts? Were these two incidences handled wrong by the media? Do you see the bigger picture, as I do, that the media is walking a politically correct tightrope and going after the ratings boost?
I’m not afraid to say it. The media got it wrong!