Letter to the Editor: Guilty verdict lies with the media

By on April 25, 2007

I’d like to personally express my outrage about the ruined lives and careers surrounding the Duke lacrosse controversy, but not precisely for the reasons Doug Manners raised.

Doug raises some excellent points. These young gentlemen were not just acquitted, they were excused from any further legal proceedings. Good! They’re not guilty of such a heinous crime. This country doesn’t need new sources of crime. The problem is that a crime WAS committed: Perjury, specifically by the woman who sought to charge these young men.

The outrage here is actually two fold. First, it’s astonishing to me each and every time a story is reported that the implication is perfect guilt without accounting for any potential innocence or allowing due process of law to be completed. The Chronicle is guilty of this very issue in a previous issue’s portrayal of the basketball player incident earlier this year. This paper held those young men guilty without due process of law by forgetting the word “alleged” in the accounting of that event. This article is not intended to express disgust with The Chronicle however. I believe that this was probably an honest mistake in a very emotionally charged report.

Nonetheless, the media moguls of the major networks and newspapers have some serious problems on their hands. Television viewing has been down substantially since the internet became a mainstream instrument. The networks responded by using sensationalism to boost ratings, failing to account for the downfall of newspapers for precisely the same reasons.

CNN is a perfect example. Not six months ago, you could watch Headline News 24 hours a day. Now CNN’s prime time slot (between 6 and 11 p.m. on weekdays) has been replaced by absolute idiots like Nancy Grace (who seriously lacks any grace) and Glen Beck.

If you’ve had the unfortunate displeasure of listening to Nancy Grace, you’ve seen her browbeat anyone who ever disagreed with her on any issue of “morality.” She honestly believes that she’s the moral authority on all things legal because she happened to be a prosecutor at one time. I would point out that she’s no longer a prosecutor and never will be, and probably needed a job, so she came up with this silly idea of going on TV. She’s rich, but this doesn’t make her a moral authority.

If you’ve watched Glen Beck, then you’ve discovered a whole new range of biblical scale fatalism in his constant statements that the world is ending and that we’re in World War III. This coming from a man who freely admits to being an alcoholic who smoked marijuana in front of his kids.

This sort of bourgeois pedestrian repartee is indicative of self-hatred and vengeance for vengeance’s sake. CNN is no longer the most trusted name in news. Trust me.

And the other networks aren’t much better. Turn on CNBC and you get “Deal or No Deal,” “1 vs. 100″ and “High Net Worth”: two of which are game shows, and the third ought to be. When did a financial news channel decide it needed to host a game show? MSNBC is equally guilty for hosting brain-dead people like Don Imus. Not for nothing, but if he’s going to talk about hair, he ought to at least take a look in the mirror before getting on camera with a mullet.

Reliable news is easier to come by than is generally believed, but one must turn to reliable ethical sources for news. News is never perfectly unbiased; however, I would argue that the McNeil Lehrer Report at 7 p.m. on PBS does a fairly good job (6 p.m. on most NPR radio stations).The point of news is to inform people about events, not to state opinions about the story as it’s being reported. This does not mean that opinions can’t be expressed in the news, but first the story has to be reported. How this is typically handled in Europe is with a qualified panel of people with different, but not necessarily opposing, opinions who have experience with the issues presented in the news being discussed.

I’ve been using this quote a great deal this year, but I must repeat it here as it’s so apt for this situation:

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

Particularly at a university we should all associate ourselves with critical thought and reasoning. Scholar doesn’t mean one who goes to school. It means one who studies. The news should be studied and critically reasoned, but I digress. What do you think?

Eric Lind
President of the International Business Society


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