Skip to comments.Yes, the Story is Titillating but Titillation Isn't News
Posted on 05/09/2005 10:49:34 AM PDT by MurryMom
Call me crazy. Call me stubborn. But I don't think anyone's private, so-far legal affairs are my business. Or yours. Not even if it's a politician. Not even if the matter is tawdry.
This is not the universal opinion of media mongers and, perhaps, many in the public. We have a sad example down the road where another daily newspaper, the Times-Leader, has published four (as of Friday) featured stories on its front pages and sanctimoniously weighed in on its editorial page and in an opinion column on its news pages about the possible philandering of a local politician.
Since so many people, thanks to that newspaper down the road, know the story already, I suppose there is no harm in summarizing it as a back-rub gone bad. Without stooping to names and the prurient details that I believe are not newsworthy, suffice it to say:
Police responded to a domestic call at this politician's apartment in Washington, D.C., seven months ago. This became public knowledge after a one-time political opponent from a fringe party faxed the police incident report to various media.
The police report said that neither the politician nor the 29-year-old woman who had called 911 were particularly forthcoming. The police report raised doubts about the woman's credibility.
Police in the incident report said the woman claimed the politician had been giving her a back rub and then suddenly started choking her. She ran to the bathroom and called 911. The politician, in the incident report, acknowledges giving her a back rub but says she bolted to the bathroom for no reason.
Police said there was no physical evidence of a crime, and therefore did not make an arrest on their own. They advised the woman that she could press charges if she felt a crime had occurred. The woman did not press charges then, and she told the editor of the Wyoming County Press New Age-Examiner in Tunkhannock on Monday that she does not plan to press charges in the future.
Is this news?
No. Where is the connection between the politician's private moral life and his public performance?
Are we to investigate the private lives of all public officials? How about revealing the private, personal, sexual conduct of doctors? Or lawyers? Or mayors? Or judges? Or newspaper editors?
That other newspaper down the road mounted its pillar of purity to opine that this politician, a Republican, owes his constituents an apology, that he is a hypocrite for voting for family values while his own family values are in shambles.
Oh really? Does anyone other than the politician, who has issued an ambiguous apology but otherwise has been mum, and the woman actually know what happened there or know the extent or details of their relationship? The woman, according to that newspaper down the road, claims the politician and she had been having an affair since 1999. The politician describes her as a casual acquaintance. You have to make assumptions to decide who is telling the truth. You have to make assumptions -- and lurid ones at that -- to guess what was going on in that apartment. Your guess very well may be right. Or it may be wrong. Assumptions ordinarily are not the basis of news articles.
By our standards, the threshold for news in a dispute like this is: (a) The accuser has the capacity to file a criminal complaint, so why doesn't she? Then it would be a story. Or, (b) she can file a civil lawsuit, and then it would be a story. The essential ingredient in both a criminal and civil complaint is a sworn statement by the accuser that her assertion is true.
So why doesn't she? I see from that paper down the road that she now has a lawyer and that she might file a civil lawsuit. Since when do legitimate media report that someone might file a lawsuit?
I understand the allure of sexual innuendo and gossipy glimpses at personal peccadilloes of the powerful.
But please, spare us all from the sanctimonious self-righteousness that is pervading that other newspaper's truly awful journalism.
There are a lot of stories in the supermarket tabloids and pornographic magazines that we choose not to run because they don't meet our standards.
I don't think we should be stampeded into lowering our standards just because another publication has no standards.
Given the overheated coverage of that other paper, some of our readers have legitimately wondered why we haven't published the story. To those who have called, we have explained.
Thus, this column. For those who also wonder but have not called, this is our explanation -- minus the names, because that is just a backdoor way to get the same smarmy story into our paper.
We'll cover this story aggressively when it's newsworthy. That time may come, if it finds its way into the courts, or if it becomes a part of a political campaign, or if it attaches itself somehow to the politician's public responsibilities.
Until then, my decision is that, although this certainly is titillating, it is not news.
Call me stubborn, but I'm not going to be stampeded into making moral judgments on other people's private lives in the columns of this newspaper.
How can this sanctimonious hypocrite write such crap without even once mentioning the word "Clinton" and stating whether President Clinton's supported impeachment or not?
Clinton's crime wasn't philandering. His was lying and obstruction of justice in a civil case.
I hear what you're saying, but it's apples and oranges.
Bill Clinton had an affair with an underling. That would be classified as sexual harassment in any office situation.
Actually he propositioned more women in the office. Monica was the one who swallowed the bait.
Consider too that he bribed her to stay quiet with a job from his Revlon buddy.
if a politician can't honor his marriage vows, why should I believe that he'll honor his oath of office?
His personal life is highly relevant and the voters deserve to know about it.
How can this sanctimonious hypocrite write such vacuous verbiage without even once mentioning the word "Clinton" and stating whether he supported President Clinton's impeachment or not?
What really annoyed me about Clinton is that the law he violated was one that he'd signed with a fair amount of hoopla about how he was helping victims of sexual harrassment get justice.
He should resign or be expelled from office, along with every Democrat or Republican who behaves this way.
Why don't you tell us what you think about Hillary's campaign money scandal -- of go back to DU?
The politicianmust have been a democrat.
Or a woman.
Or, more likely, a liberal republican.
(Had it been a male, conservative, republican, the WHORLD would have been told.
Oh, you just had to choose that expression :)
When you grow up and have children you will know
So who was it?
"Last time I saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it."
Aw jeez, is Chuck Robb in the news again?
This editorial is about Don Sherwood, yet Beaupre does not even mention his name ONCE throughout this entire editorial, so why would he mention Clinton?
Also, it's interesting to note that this is the first time the Scranton Times even MENTIONED the Sherwood controversy (the Scranton Times is the largest paper in Sherwood's congressional district). The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre) has already had several articles on this.
BTW, Sherwood DID support Clinton's impeachment.