Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Press uses the First Amendment for Personal Destruction

The media spectacle we saw transpire this week concerning suggestive pictures that Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) sent to women he follows on Twitter was just as much about how the press uses their First Amendment right to justify the personal destruction of public people as it is about his personal failings as a human being.

The sexual transgressions of narcissistic powerful men like former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), former Senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards (D-NC), former Senator John Ensign (R-NV), and Congressman Weiner is typical tabloid news that belongs in the National Enquirer.  

Back in good old days when journalists were more ethical than they are nowadays, you turned to rags like the Enquirer if you wanted to pry into a public figure’s personal life.  Instead, this new opinionated news media turns every salacious regional story into a national one and sells it to the public as hard news when it has absolutely nothing to do with the public’s right to know.

Of course, Congressman Weiner is solely the blame for giving the news media ammunition to use against him, and lying to the press did not help his situation. However, until Monday, outside of New York City, no one knew who Anthony Weiner was.  The press made his indiscretion headline news, and many Americans now view him as a national disgrace. 

The reason most Americans turn their nose up at the likes of the National Enquirer is because they profit from the personal destruction of public figures, and they do not care who they destroy or the collateral damage to loved-ones. On Monday, the media circus surrounding Congressman Weiner probably made editors at the National Enquirer a little nervous seeing their business model playing out in the mainstream media. They now know who their real competition is.

The mainstream media is now fully invested in sensationalism, and they too, are not concerned about who they destroy. The bigger the target, the harder they drive the nail into his coffin. People no longer have to spend two or three bucks for a trashy publication; they can just turn on the news.

If the news media spent more time covering sex trafficking than sex scandals, it is possible to force these organizations out into the open so these girls are rescued from this life. It would put this issue into the American psychic and cause us to pay closer attention. The public has a right to know, regularly, what is being done to stop these vile men from kidnapping girls and turning them into sex slaves.  However, the news media’s primary interest is making sure they yield a profit for their corporate parent, and sex scandals sell where sex trafficking pulls on the heartstring and many feel helpless to do anything about it and turn away.

What if there were a live 40-minute press conferences demanding answers from the FBI, local police, and Justice Department about what they are doing to stop sex trafficking much like the 40-minute presser they covered about Congressman Weiner’s sex scandal.  Spending more time covering sex trafficking can only serve to bring this crime to the light rather than allowing it to take a backseat to sex scandals. Just think about the impact of that.

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics states “Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other. Journalists should encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media; admit mistakes and correct them promptly, and abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.”

Wake-up America, it is time to stand up and hold the mainstream news media accountable.  It is time for all Americans to voice your grievances against them.  They are not too big to fail. The U.S. Constitution gave them the freedom to print what they want, but we have the collective power to bankrupt them.