Fairness And George Zimmerman

squashed 2George Zimmerman is in trouble again, this time from a domestic abuse incident. Presumably the justice system will work, and protect his pregnant girlfriend, as well as give Zimmerman whatever punishment the evidence indicates that he deserves.

In the meantime, the news media should be giving his misadventures back page rather than front page attention. I have heard Zimmerman described in the news media as the new O.J. Simpson, which is a slur (O.J. murdered two people in cold blood, with intent and malice aforethought), but which correctly describes how reporters want to treat him. In truth, he is the new Rodney King. Like Zimmerman, King was a maladjusted individual with poor judgment and a penchant for violence, who nonetheless did not deserve the fate that befell him, and was a reluctant celebrity. After the events and the trials stemming from his arrest (which was warranted), his resisting it (which was wrong) and his brutal beating (which was also wrong), King had more arrests and incidents involving law enforcement. These were news items, but not major ones, and the minor coverage they received was proper and appropriate.

Why is Zimmerman’s arrest the lead on this morning’s cable shows? It is because so many in the media fervently wanted him convicted of murder, and to have an official declaration that he stalked and killed Trayvon Martin out of racial prejudice, although there was, and remains, no evidence this was the case. Now they want to frame his current legal issues as proof that he should have been convicted, which is a biased, warrantless, illogical and unfair assumption. A far more plausible conclusion is that Zimmerman’s conduct and instability today arises from the chaos of his life, which was inflicted on him by a culture-wide, media-assisted effort to turn him into a national villain, and the face of racism in America. Continue reading

What Today’s Broadcast News Regards As “Credentials”

"Yes, yes...journalism degree, experience at a local affiliate, blah, blah...but no rapes? Arrests? Scandals? Sexual abuse? Miss, you have NO credentials that make you valuable as a network reporter! Wait--what's your bra size?"

Good for media ethics pundit Howard Kurtz for blowing the whistle, however gently, on ABC News’s hiring of Elizabeth Smart as a contributing on-air expert on missing children cases. “Does that strike anyone as odd?” he writes.

Well, it depends what you mean by “odd,” Howard.

If you mean, does it surprise me that a broadcast media outlet, one of the journalistic mutations that hired Eliot Spitzer, fresh off his prostitution disgrace, to headline a current events show on CNN, that puts a giggly fold-out-come-to-life  like Robin Meade in charge of Headline News’ morning, and that, like Fox News, chooses its female newsreaders and guest pundits according to their degree of resemblance to Mamie Van Doren or Raquel Welch, would hire a young, attractive blond woman with no credentials other than her role as the victim of kidnapping, sexual abuse and rape, as a correspondent, why no, I don’t find it odd at all.

If you mean, do I find it odd that a supposedly professional news network would so blatantly abandon professional standards  just to cash in on the Casey Anthony uproar, however, then…wait, no, I don’t find that odd either. Revolting, but not odd. Continue reading

It’s Not Unethical…It Just Seems That Way

Rodney King is marrying one of the jurors who awarded him $3.8 million in his civil suit against Los Angeles.

If your ethics alarm is ringing, turn it off. This would be a conflict of interest if his bride-to-be were TV’s Allison DuBois, who can see the future, or if the betrothed had a top-of-the-line crystal ball. But she doesn’t—-or, at least, we don’t know that she does—so as much as this feels like self-enrichment, it’s not. This is the Ick Factor. It feels wrong, but it is perfectly ethical.