Crystal J. Doucette
Ed De La Garza
Nikie Johnson Ellen Simonson
Media embraces the meaningless
Since early May, Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.)
has been at the center of attention with the mysterious disappearance of
a young graduate
student from Modesto, Calif. Dark-haired
Chandra Ann Levy, who was from Condit's Congressional district, was a federal
Washington, D.C., One week after her internship
ended May 1, she abruptly vanished before her trip back home.
Media outlets quickly latched on to the
story as details unraveled that the married representative may have had
an affair with his young
constituent. Rumors soon followed he might
also be involved in her sudden disappearance.
Condit immediately retreated from the media,
refusing to discuss the case, canceling press conferences and declining
until recently. ABC's Connie Chung was
given an interview with Condit, which aired yesterday on Prime Time
Somehow, listening to Chung stumble through
questions about when Condit had expected to call Levy before her disappearance
when he had thought he was going to hear
from her again felt like some bad dialogue from a soap opera, rather than
the "News Exclusive"
it was touted as.
Washington, D.C., police have said Condit
is not a suspect in Levy's disappearance, but rumors he could be involved
have been the
subject of intense scrutiny and extensive
coverage by local news stations and all-news cable channels in the past
Though he has more recently admitted a
relationship with Levy, Condit still maintains he had nothing to do with
her disappearance and
the extensive attention being paid to
him is unwarranted.
"This isn't about the Condits, it's about
the Levys," Condit said in the ABC interview.
Condit's decision to boycott the press
may have been based partly on the same principles some media held in believing
coverage of him
prurient -- it just wasn't news. Day after
day, viewers were treated to "breaking news" in the Levy case that resulted
in very little more than
sensationalism that produced no real concrete
evidence resolving anything whatsoever.
So few were the actual developments in
the case and, more importantly, so lacking was substantial news matter
in the topic as a whole,
that CBS news anchor Dan Rather refused
to report on the Levy case on his Evening News program until 11 weeks into
the story. Rather
chose to take a stand on the entertainment
value of modern news coverage. It was a stand some other media could possibly
to instead of lambasting the public with
so much tabloid news.
Did news outlets jump at the opportunity
to discuss a missing intern's affair with a married politician because
it was important and worthy of
coverage, or did it just make for good
entertainment? Maybe these reporting pieces should be called "Breaking
Entertainment." This way
we will know we're not actually about
to get any news that's relevant, important or helpful, just entertaining
and good for gossip.