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Sex Scandals

November 24, 2014

We don’t want to say anything flip about this extremely sensitive topic. We don’t want to be perceived as minimizing what someone else had to endure. We don’t want to do anything that derails what should, at some point, maybe, hopefully, result in an examination of why people do bad things and how such misconduct might be avoided.

That said, when it comes to sex scandals, the coverage is sometimes as creepy as the conduct.

It’s the tabs. It’s the internet sites that traffic in the sensational. It’s the broadcast media.

Competition in the news is usually a beautiful thing – except when it comes to these types of stories.  Then it’s a … well … it’s an orgy.

Right now it’s Bill Cosby and what he might have done 20 and 30 years ago. Before that it was Steven Collins and Sanford Rubenstein. Before that, it was Dominique Straus Kahn and Anthony Weiner. Before that, it was Eliot Spitzer and before him it was Bill Clinton. Add Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson and Arnold Schwartzenegger and on and on.

Don’t forget teachers having sex with their students. And on this point, there’s a bizarre dynamic that goes like this: The more attractive the teacher, the greater the coverage. Again, not to be flip, but why is it that a homely teacher who has sex with a student gets a small, one-time article in the paper, but the attractive blonde who does it gets extensive coverage and a made-for-TV movie? And when it involves two blonde teachers who may have engaged in a three way sex with a male student, then the coverage never ends.

Sex scandals, of course, are as old as time and nothing we say here will change that. So why are we raising all of this in our humble politics and policy blog? It’s for two reasons:

First, we again want to make the point that New York sets the tone for the rest of the nation. When the New York tabs go crazy, others in the media follow.  We continue to believe that our best chance for a modest, incremental baby step toward restraint in the coverage starts with each of us speaking to the people we know in the New York City media.

Our second point is made to underscore the first. And we know some people will take great offense to what we’re about to say, but it is the truth. Here it is: The media isn’t pure. We know of women in journalism who had intimate relations with male media executives in order to advance. We know male editors who eagerly took advantage of the situation. We know of male and female reporters who partied with and had sex with sources. We knew a prominent reporter who had one family at home and another family in Albany where he covered state government. We know of reporters from the nation’s most prominent newspaper who have had gay sexual relations with multiple people in government. And we know a reporter who coined term used to describe the acceptance of loose morals in Albany who engages in the same conduct he denounced.

Each of these situations is a potential blockbuster story for which we could write an extraordinary headline. We could sell it. Big time.

We could also rationalize the coverage, too, by saying that each of the individuals involved is indeed a public figure and that what happened might have influenced the way the news was reported.

But these stories have never been covered. And why is that?

Well, maybe it’s because most of the reporters and editors involved are rather unattractive – so it’s sort of like the situation with the frumpy teacher who has sex with a student.  Oops, that was a dig and a flippant point, and we’re sorry for doing it.

No, the real reason this sort of thing never gets covered is because the reporters and editors have one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for others.  They most assuredly do. And isn’t that ironic? That’s exactly what reporters and editors often say to explain why they go after others with such intensity for their sexual indiscretions.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    November 24, 2014 10:35 PM

    I sympathize with the angst of this post but its analysis contains flaws and the policy prescription is a non-starter.

    There’s a different, two-pronged way of looking at the problem.

    First, most of the supposed “sex scandals” listed herein actually hinge on accusations of criminality or abuse of power, and to call them all mere “sexual indiscretions” – like Alex Rodriguez’s hotel romp with a stripper or Tiger Woods 12 mistresses –paints with too broad a brush and serves to minimize them. The crimes alleged include rape, child molestation, assault, drugging, soliciting prostitutes, structuring, statutory rape, perjury, obstruction of justice, and others.

    Yes, the coverage can be lurid and excessive, but the main reason these deeds have become newsworthy and fingered as criminal behavior has to do with a phenomenon NT2 probably considers salutary – the civil rights revolution, parts of which were feminism and the growth of children’s rights.

    You just can’t f— with women and children the way you used to! They have more power and status now. They’re willing to speak up and strike back.

    Second, at the same time, the media have less status, now that their business models have collapsed and news has become a commodity, so they are more than willing to pander to public outrage and play up every salacious story. In this, the distinction between the elite and tabloid media dissolved long ago.

    We live in a cacophonous, coarse, populist time when people distrust traditional authority and men, in particular, the symbol of that authority, are taking it up the ass, so to speak. (Turnabout is fair play, one might say.)

    I don’t see this dynamic ending anytime soon, but the pendulum always swings back.

    The idea that NT2 readers could persuade the media folks they know in NYC to tone down the coverage, even a little, doesn’t fly. Those decisions are made way above your friends’ pay grade, for the most part.

    Some of us know Col Allan and Colin Myler. They are not having that conversation.

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