Monday, October 09, 2006

"Sex Power God" Party at Brown University Creates Media Debate

Last year a producer for the O'Reilly Factor purchased a ticket online for the infamous "Sex Power God" party held every year by the Queer Alliance at Brown University. The party is attended by both straight and gay students. He showed his ticket, got into the party and returned back with footage of unbelievable things. Several people I know went to the party and were outraged by O'Reilly's commentary and the shots used (some of which showed half-naked students dancing, among other things). Many students claimed the producer had no right going into the party and shooting video without asking permission. Some students may not have been 18. The Brown Daily Herald article has photos and video included.

On the other hand, some people who did not go to the party said it was about time for people to realize that they should not go parading around naked and feel like they are invincible. Bill O'Reilly and the producer incorrectly stated some of the facts surrounding the party and snuck in without consent.

Students debated the media's role in society after this party was leaked to the public. Since Brown is a liberal institution, many students were quick to blame the whole scandal on Fox and O'Reilly.

But, do you really think these students should have been so oblivious?

Who do you think was at fault?

The students parading around barely-dressed? Or, the media, who snuck in and exposed the party?



At Tuesday, October 10, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

It appears that there are a lot of problems with this entire situation.

The students do have a right to be angry with Bill O'Reilly & company. It was wrong of the producer to misrepresent himself at the party and equally problematic that the broadcast presented incorrect facts about the event.

But on the other hand, it seems that the party might be potentially newsworthy--but only to people who think that this kind of thing doesn't happen at universities all across the country. It seems a bit odd that the university allows the party to happen in a university-owned building, but it is a private school.

The right thing to do would have been for the producer to attend the party and clearly identify himself as a reporter. A good news story would have been one where the producer asked student participants tough questions about what they were doing.

Doing so might have not made for such a sensational story, but that shouldn't be the point. It's too bad that people like O'Reilly (and there are many others) are so quick to get the big, flashy story without doing the sometimes uncomfotable work of journalism.


At Tuesday, October 10, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

I am disgusted by O'Reilly's intrusion into students' lives without their consent. Not only were many unaware that a camera, let alone a cable network, was recording their every action, but they never imagined that a University tradition would jeopardize their reputation and their school's.

Images can be taken out of context and manipulated through editing. A tight shot of a student holding a plastic red cup might signal to a viewer that he or she is drinking alcohol, when in reality, that cup might be full of soda. Viewers are a quick to make judgments. Oftentimes, these judgments are wielded by a producer’s motives.

And close-ups of students plastered across television sets do not erase easily from one's memory. I think it’s fair to say that some students engaged in this so-called “debauchery” had a more difficult time securing a job after this video was made public. I think this also applies to those students videotaped who may not have done anything "questionable" at all, but were present in a questionable environment. They privacy of these students was, thus, grossly taken advantage of. Yes, they should have been smarter. But, FOX crossed a number of ethical lines.

I think O'Reilly and FOX had ulterior motives in this broadcast. If the “Sex Power God” tradition was part of forth-tier school and not an Ivy League institution, I do not think this story would have been covered. But because the students featured were probably wealthy, white and smart, they were depicted as fools.

We can learn a lot from this story. Trust no one, and never do anything you would be ashamed of in public. Just when you're having a good time and think your privacy is in check, think again.


At Wednesday, October 11, 2006, Anonymous aj said...

I agree that the reporter should have identified himself and not videotaped students without their consent. When people are at a party, they don't usually expect to have their actions blasted across the television the next day. Doing a story on whether the party should be held on Brown property is fine, but to misrepresent yourself is a violation of journalistic ethics.

I also have issue with the way the story seems to have been covered. It's easy to videotape some students getting wild and say, "Shame on you, Brown, for allowing this," but that's not great journalism. The party was potentially newsworthy, if just for the fact that tickets go for so much online. If the emphasis was, as the article said, on Brown University allowing the party, then Fox News should have looked into similar occurences at other schools, such as the "thug" party at the University of Chicago last year.

There are many stories at public and private universities that would never be told if it weren't for professional journalists coming in, but they have to uphold the same standards they would in another venue if they want their reporting to be taken seriously by the public.

At Sunday, October 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece was purely for shock value. I don't see any newsworthiness to something like this. In fact, I'd like to throw out a big "who cares!" to what goes on at Brown.

Alas, stories like this are nothing new to "journalism" and will continue to hit the airwaves in an effort to attract viewers.

Why else does Dateline rountinely nab would-be sex offenders with hidden cameras everywhere?

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