Fun_People Archive
12 Feb
Mr. Anchorman, Have You Ever Committed Adultery?

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 98 14:33:05 -0800
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Subject: Mr. Anchorman, Have You Ever Committed Adultery?

Forwarded-by: Daniel Glasner <dglasner@SCSCOMM.COM>
                   Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
               Media analysis, critiques and news reports


 by Jeff Cohen (Baltimore Sun, Feb. 8)

 In recent years, mainstream news outlets have found it increasingly
 acceptable to explore the private lives of public officials.  The stated
 or implied rationale is that the American people, in judging the
 "character" of a politician, have a right to know if that official has
 engaged in extramarital affairs.  Often, the "character issue" has become
 a media code word for marital infidelity.

 Even though polls indicate that Americans believe the mass media now go
 too far in investigating the intimate behavior of politicians, little seems
 to slow down sex-hunting journalists, especially those on network TV and
 "all-news" cable channels.

 Maybe there's only one way to get these journalists to rethink their
 actions: turn the tables on them.  Perhaps it's necessary to vividly
 demonstrate to top news media personalities - some of whom arguably wield
 as much power as the politicians they cover - what it feels like to be on
 the receiving end of persistent questions about their private lives.

 So the next time you see a prominent TV journalist like Tom Brokaw or Peter
 Jennings or Dan Rather at a public lecture or on a call-in talk show,
 politely ask them if they've ever committed adultery.

 If they react by saying that such information is none of your business,
 you can tell them in self-righteous tones that the American public has a
 right to judge the "character" of journalists who have vast power to
 influence millions of people.

 If you get a forthright denial, don't stop there -- especially if you've
 seen any kind of a rumor of extramarital relations on the Internet or a
 supermarket tabloid.  Rephrase your query (this time you might mention oral
 sex) and point out that your question "is not about sex, it's about
 integrity and whether the American people can trust you to tell them the
 whole truth."

 If you get a denial that's hesitant or hedged, be prepared with a series
 of follow-up questions - even if you feel embarrassed.  In fact, like a TV
 news anchor, admit your embarrassment as you proceed to ask "these
 difficult questions."  More importantly, see a hedged denial as your sign
 to do more investigating, dig up old news or gossip and be ready to
 challenge this journalist's character the next chance you can.

 In the real world, most Americans would feel squeamish asking such
 questions, even if it's just to prove a point about media overkill.

 Unfortunately, journalists at top news outlets have been anything but
 squeamish lately.  It seems likely that well-known correspondents, pundits
 and anchors would begin to think twice about  personal queries if they
 found themselves on the receiving end.  Some questions are easier to ask
 than to answer.
 Jeff Cohen is the director of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting), a
 national media watch group, and co-author of  "Wizards of Media Oz.".

To subscribe to FAIR-L send a "subscribe FAIR-L your full name" command

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