Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Media Coverage of the Duke Lacrosse Team Rape Scandal

Do you think the media ruined the chance for a fair trial in the Duke University lacrosse team rape case? More generally speaking, do you think we even get a chance to know both parties in such cases?

I think anchors, reporters and other news personalities were too opinionated in this case. They were also too quick to draw conclusions before hearing all the facts. Take the examples in the article here.

Tucker Carlson referred to the alleged victim as a "crypto-hooker." And then Rush Limbaugh called her a "ho." Depending upon what network you were watching, the case was crudely decided for you.

I am not slamming any particular network. I just think it is going to be hard to have jurors who are not affected by media coverage in this case. The media does not give you room to interpret facts because of sensationalism surrounding a high-profile case. The reason this is an attractive case for news gatherers is because it involves wealthy, white athletes at a top university and a poor, black stripper.

As a result of the networks I watched, I was swayed in a different direction. Because the lacrosse players were portrayed as vulgar, I was quick to assume their guilt. I had to remind myself to take a step back from the info-tainment in the news. Can all viewers do this?

The problem is all judgments are made by the media before it even gets to the courtroom.

Posted By: TD


At Wednesday, October 04, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

I had a number of problems with the coverage of the Duke lacrosse team scandal. What innerved me the most was that this story took precedence over more pertinent and pressing stories like the Mideast conflict. No matter what network I switched too, I was still greeted with images of cleaned-up college athletes confessing their innocence before a judge. I searched for any hint of “news,” but to no avail. It was either the rape case or JonBenet Ramsey. You take your pick.

In an age dominated by sensationalism, this comes of no surprise. But when questionable stories like the Duke lacrosse team, with missing information and contradictory facts, overshadow substantive events of global stature, I have to rethink producers’ decisions on how they stack their show. Many of these producers that I refer to made not one lousy decision, but many. The Duke lacrosse team was smeared onto televisions for weeks, whether viewers wanted to learn of “updates” or not. Good journalism involves reporting the facts. This does not mean reporting incessantly before all the facts are there.

News is not a soap opera, and it never should be.

As journalists, we need to learn how to get the rankings without favoring sensationalism over realism.


At Thursday, October 05, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

I know that the news is in a stage where they are fighting for the attention of people who love drama and intrigue. Hence, the popularity of shows like Lost and Gray's Anatomy. With such short attention spans, the news decides to sell out on integrity for the sake of circ and ratings.


At Saturday, October 07, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

Opinions are like (take ur pic of something ubiquitous), everyone has one. Including supposedly "fair and balanced" "no spin zone" (insert cliche here) reporters and news directors. So I agree with the original post. The media did try to make up its audience's mind. Race and class are how our society defines people, specifically "who's who" and "what's news." Hence, one reason why it may have gotten more air time than the Mideast conflict. As previously mentioned, You have wealthy white men and a poor black woman. You also have the 'unusual' (or is it?) in that whatever allegedly took place, it happened at Duke, a university where some people thought, "Oh, that kind of thing doesn't happen here."

At Sunday, October 08, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

I completely agree... I never feel as though I have an opportunity to formulate my opinion on anything from court cases to breaking news. In addition to the on-air comments made by anchors and reporters (similar to the one you referenced), the manner in which TV news stories are edited, ‘adjusted’, and enhanced with tilted captions or the overly dramatic soundtrack that often accompanies many of the CNN reports, is overwhelming for a viewer.

- MG


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