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Remembering the 90s Media Scandals
[Opinion]Why I lost respect for the professional media
David Michael Weber (crossfire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-07-10 16:20 (KST)   
Coming from America, a country that is news-obsessed with countless news programs on TV, newspapers and magazines and yet at the same time often oddly unaware of what is going on in the world, I'm used to having the news media giants dictate what is newsworthy and what isn't. Prior to the 90s, I had little reason to question the media's competency and objectivity. The media still seemed to possess some element of aloof professionalism. Of course, I was horribly young at the time and easily influenced.

Amy Fisher's Mugshot
©2006 Wikipedia
It had to be the Buttafuoco scandal in the early 90s that first shook my faith in the professional media. A New England tart decided her boyfriend, a man twice her age, was worth keeping to the point of shooting his wife point blank in the head. Her aim was not as true as her love apparently as the wife survived and the story hit nationwide. For some reason this was worthy of national news. But it wasn't just one blurb on the nightly news -- spoken and soon forgotten -- it became an obsession of the nation fueled by numerous follow-up reports.

Shortly after came the infamous Bobbitt case where a young wife tired of her husband's cheating ways, decided to relieve him of his pride and joy while he slept. The consequences of her actions rode a slurpee cup to the operation room and into the living rooms of millions of Americans. What should have been tabloid fodder became food for thought for the professional media to ponder over.

When that began to die off yet another scandal arose - the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding Olympic figure ice skating fiasco where Ms. Harding had decided to even the odds in her favor with a crowbar to Kerrigan's legs. This newsworthy item dragged on to its bitter end with Ms. Harding crying pitifully to the judges over a skate whose lacing had come undone.

Then came the be-all grandest scandal that shook the media world to its knees. Not Somalia, not the Yugoslavia War, it was the (cue trumpets and drums) the OJ Simpson scandal -- undoubtably the grandest of all scandals that dragged on and on and on and on like some B-grade horror monster that refuses to die no matter what.

When OJ Simpson's white Ford Bronco hit the LA streets one warm summer evening, media moguls must have shed a tear of gratitude as their fingers speed-dialed their news offices.

By that time I had reached a point of utter disgust and distrust of the so-called professional media. Gone seemed to be the days of the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. "This is what the public wants!" was often the defense for the coverage of these stories. Perhaps, but is it what the public needs from the professional media? Let the tabloids print the tabloids.

The icing on the proverbial cake had to be the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair that followed in the wake of the OJ trial. The theater of the absurd was in full swing as an American President was nearly impeached over a completely overblown non-issue. And the professional media was there to discuss the finer details of presidential deposits on intern dresses.

Finally at the end of a long decade of tabloid scandals which were given more media attention than was possibly needed, came the debacle of the 2000 presidential election coverage. Here was an actual newsworthy event and they bungled it royally. Before all the votes were in, Fox News declared current President Bush the winner. Many of the other media sources fell in line save a brave few. This premature call just caused more confusion in the months that followed as the results were being sorted out.

Six years, two wars and thousands of dead later, one wonders how different the world might have been if the professional media had just done its job and not jumped the gun so quickly.

For these reasons whenever criticism is leveled at citizen journalism, I just roll my eyes and think just how objective and professional the "professional" media has been in my country over the last 15 years or so as they chased one tabloid story after another. Thanks to such in-depth coverage, Americans knew more about the dresses the prosecutor wore at OJ Simpson's murder trial than they did about Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
©2006 OhmyNews
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.
Other articles by reporter David Michael Weber

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