Why does a bad moment in someone’s personal life suddenly become news?
Did Britt McHenry’s behavior merit a suspension from ESPN?
What does the entire saga say about our priorities in news coverage?
I received many responses via comments, tweets and emails. Here are a few.
Amy Trask, the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders and now a NFL analyst with CBS, sent me a thoughtful email.
Trask: The fact that it is a story – irrespective of whether it should be – is a reflection of the age in which we live;
Whether it should be a story is another subject altogether – I would posit that many stories should not be stories.
That said, there is, in my view, an important issue rolled up in all of this: If and to the extent a male broadcaster would have been subject to opprobrium and discipline for the sort of cruel, ad hominem attack on a woman (about her appearance, in particular) as leveled by Britt McHenry, then a female broadcaster should be subject to the same opprobrium. Stated simply: If public opinion, business guidelines and emerging societal ethos is such that it’s not OK for a male to do this – if he would have been publicly excoriated and suspended from his job – then that should be the case for a female too. After all – gender blind means gender blind.
Exploring and grappling with the philosophical issues of evaluating conduct, applying standards, etc. are what make this – and perhaps make this worthy – of a story.
An additional thought: If an athlete engaged in the behavior we saw on that video, the sports media would cover that story. Whether we believe it should be a story or not, it would be. In the words of the playground: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Tonga: Traffic, Ed. The same reason you posted this and will tweet the link four or five times today. Page views pay the bills.
Rich: To some extent, we see people on television and always wonder about their personality. I think we either believe or want to believe they are good people, work hard and perform on their job. They’re made up, they are smiling, they are putting their best foot forward. This video contradicts all of that. When we see a video such as this one, it may or may not give us some insight to their true personality or at least another side of it.
Without the video, the story barely rates at all and is just another example of a person behaving badly in a momentary encounter and is poor reflection of that person. However, while I think it got much more attention that it deserved, all of the factors above combined to make it a story. On-air reporter for biggest sports network behaving badly on video. Maybe it’s not worthy of the nightly network news programs but it’s a dream scenario for Harvey Levin and others.
KT: People who make a living in the public eye and whose stock-in-trade is being genial and convivial are fair game to be exposed when they are being disingenuous.
Plus, we love tearing down people we only marginal knowledge of, as long as they have attractive head shots.
Philip Hersh: Schadenfreude involved, with some people reveling in her takedown, but she is public figure & behavior was despicable.
Young ideas: Old media adage: The mic is always hot. The camera never blinks twice (Got that from Dan Rather’s book).
John Walters: I believe she answered that question herself, Ed: “I’m on TV!”
Roger Domal: I have no idea who she is and if she disappeared from TV tomorrow it wouldn’t make a difference.
Amanda Haseley: She is a female sports reporter, a role model to girls. You can’t take on that task and berate a woman for her looks/weight.
Ethan Ostrow: “E” in ESPN stands for Entertainment. She should have known better. It’s more than isolated bad moment in her personal life.
Oliver Willis: There is video; She is an attractive person; The media doesn’t need a third reason
William Clements: I would suggest the deeply derogatory, insulting, and sickening superiority she displays catches a cultural nerve. Instead of having any humanity, humility or gratefulness for her good fortune, she concisely demonstrates the worst aspects of even minor celebrity. A termination would be more appropriate than a short suspension: so that the network could demonstrate to viewers and employees alike this is never to be tolerated.
Mike Douchant: Seriously, I’m interested in knowing why someone in the entitled media can’t figure this out on their own since yesterday.