By Jeannie O'Sullivan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 2, 1998

Media circus

To the Editor:

On last Tuesday night, members of the media tuned in, pencils poised, to get a glimpse of the State of the Union.

Oh, no, not that Union. I meant the Bill and Hillary union. How are they holding up under world-wide rumors of the president's possible philandering?

Yes, folks, get ready, for it is time for yet another media circus. Since last Wednesday, the press has been bombarding the world constantly with the latest tidbits of the first sex scandal of 1998. The items are juicy, fascinating and naughty . . . but are they facts? Are they even truly relevant?

Picture a person who had been living in a cave for the past week. At first exposure to the media, this person is likely to get the impression that the presidency is on shaky ground because of a possible lurid affair. As a matter of fact, the person would probably have to spend more than a little time sifting through shocking headlines to find actual, verified facts. It is indeed ironic that phrases such as "semen-stained dress" and "oral sex" have outnumbered those such as "lying under oath" and "obstruction of justice." The fact that Bill Clinton may be charged with the latter two seem insignificant; what matters, as the FOX network puts it, sex. lies and videotape.

The media seems endlessly driven to dramatize, to embellish, to inflate to outlandish proportions. The cycle operates something like this: the media whets audiences' appetites daily with tasty hints, prompting the public to gorge itself nightly on televised, journalized, on-line feasts of often unverified speculation, thereby giving ratings to the networks who in turn encourage the media to whet the appetites . . . You get the picture.

However, is it possible that the media is barking up the wrong tree? At one time the nation did seem obsessed with scandal, yet there have been hints of a shift in America's attitude. Lately, the commentary sections of newspapers have included letters from people who find that Bill, dirty old man or not, is still a mighty fine President. Network polls of confidence in Clinton's virtue/ability to run the country/honesty have tilted back in his favor after an initial drop. The audiences seem to have a clue, unlike the press, of what the real issues are. Perhaps the people have finally had enough of the Joey Buttafucos and the Jim Bakkers. Though we still have a way to go before completely exorcising the demon of smut from our realm of fascination (myself included), it is refreshing to know that the public, if not the media, can distinguish the relevant from the rubbish.

Having just completed my first week as a journalism major, I feel ready to graduate.

Jeannie O'Sullivan
Journalism graduate student



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