Salacious Journalism: An Inside View

While “TV news executives would like us to forget this whole bizarre episode,” FAIR founder and former Fox News talking head Jeff Cohen looks back (Huffington Post, 2/22/09) at the shameful media circus that was Chandra Levy’s disappearance. “As I witnessed the farce from inside cable news,” Cohen writes, “I could see it was all about ratings and had nothing to do with journalism”:

From May to September 11, cable news channels covered no story more than Condit/Levy. Not the economic slowdown, not California’s energy crisis, not Ashcroft’s or Rumsfeld’s misguided priorities, and certainly not something or someone named Al-Qaeda. Al who?

For months until the morning the Twin Towers were hit, it was Condit–not bin Laden–who was the most despised man in America. Especially on cable news, where Condit was linked week after week to murder, with no end to speculation about how he’d caused the tragedy. Perhaps Levy died during rough sex with the congressman. Or her death was connected to Condit’s ex-con brother. Or Condit’s buddies in a motorcycle gang. Or because Levy was pregnant with Condit’s baby. “TV’s barking heads are drooling,” wrote media critic Todd Gitlin.

Cohen sees “this week–with these same outlets reporting a ‘break‘ in the 8-year-old murder case”–as “a good time for TV news executives to look back and give the public a big, fat apology,” for “the story seemed propelled far more by salacious interest in Condit’s sex life than concern for a missing woman.”

See this column from another longtime FAIR associate Media Beat: “Media Mania: The Condit Scandal Goes Over the Top” (7/12/01) by Norman Solomon