Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Issues In The News

Does The Punishment Fit The Crime?
By Amanda Yazdi

Lately, it seems the media is quick to try, convict and hang anyone under suspicion in the court of public opinion. This is not necessarily a new occurrence, but it is relevant for several of the news stories that have been dominating the airwaves for the last few weeks and months. Two in particular come to mind, the suspension and subsequent firing of Don Imus, and the fabrication and eventual dropping of the charges against three Duke Lacrosse players.

First, there is the sudden public shock and dismay at the language used by the radio talk show host with one of the most offensive mouths in the business, second only to Howard Stern. I resent the reaction of the news media to his insulting and derogatory reference to the female members of the Rutgers basketball team (and unlike all of the these media I won’t quote him yet again—you’ve heard the story—you know what he said) as if this were something new.

If you have had any exposure to his talk show, Imus In The Morning, you know that the man is capable of offending and berating almost everyone with equal opportunity. Is the kind of language he used excusable? No. However, what hypocrisy for the same company that profited from that very language every day to turn around and claim that they are now, “deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made,” according to CBS President, Les Moonves.

Are we supposed to believe, that had the network not feared the permanent withdrawal of millions of dollars in advertising, that not only would Imus still be on the air, but that each and every one of his high profile guests wouldn’t still be tuning in to his sophomoric banter on their morning commutes? Maybe I could respect CBS’s decision had they made it more believable that they were actually disgusted with what had been said. Why not a probationary period for the show, or at least a fine as big as the Imus ranch?

The second act of injustice that occurred recently and was fueled by media coverage ended happily this week when the three Duke Lacrosse players accused of rape were exonerated. What also received much attention after the fact was why these charges had been brought in the first place. Is it because of a prosecutor who played on the sensibility of a media and public who are quick to convict first and ask questions later? Quite possibly. Do we think that although proven clearly innocent of these charges (if you have any questions about that just watch the 60 Minutes interview from last Sunday) that the boys in question are blameless? Unlikely.

However, regardless of guilt or innocence, did the punishment they suffered -- ultimately, the indelible association of each of their names with a highly publicized rape case -- fit the crime of drunken revelry and indiscretion? No. These boys paid a high price for their lack of judgment in activities that evening. No doubt, they will think twice before objectifying women or maybe even before they indulge in a night of partying. But they, like Imus, paid the price of a hypocritical, bloodthirsty, and money hungry media that dominates this country.

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