Shooting the messenger is certainly not a new concept. Sophocles wrote about it in 442 B.C. in his play “Antigone.” Shakespeare wrote about it in “Henry IV, Part II” in 1598. The idea is still alive and well today. Joe the Plumber has blamed the media for painting him as “a fool” since his emergence in the 2008 presidential campaign.
“They said a lot of nasty things about me, and all of them untrue,” Joe Wurzelbacher told Editor and Publisher, a trade magazine, in a November 2009 interview. “True journalism is dead.”
Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice presidential candidate, blamed The Associated Press for bad coverage of her new book.
American International Group Inc., the insurance conglomerate that received an $85 billion taxpayer bailout, blamed negative publicity for its business woes in a quarterly report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
And our own Brent Venables, defensive coordinator for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, said the suspensions of football coaches Mark Mangino at the University of Kansas and Mike Leach at Texas Tech University “may have been a result of the media’s coverage and what kind of information is being leaked to the public.”
“The extreme nature of some of the reporting, accurate or not, would totally surprise me knowing and having experience being on the field with those men and off the field with those guys,” he was quoted at OUDaily.com, the student newspaper’s Web site.
But from where this football fan sits, assuming the reporting I’ve read is true, Mangino was accused of disparaging and abusing some of his players. He resigned after a multimillion-dollar contract settlement. Leach, who was apparently already at odds with his bosses, was accused of mishandling a situation with a player suffering a mild concussion and of refusing to cooperate with his administration regarding the matter. He was fired.
Granted, Venables was talking to reporters prior to the Sun Bowl game in El Paso, Texas, where his mind was undoubtedly occupied with his own team, not the troubles of other coaches. He was defending his friends, with whom he had previously coached. No harm in that.
But blaming the media seems like a cop-out we hear too often, a hasty, can’t-think-of-anything-else-to-say response, a mentality of laying blame anywhere but where it belongs.
A survey by Opinion Research Corp., a global market research firm, last January showed that 77 percent of Americans blamed the media for making the economic crisis worse by projecting fear into people’s minds. Coverage hurt consumer confidence and stifled investment.
I remember Charlie Gibson, the former anchor of ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson,” admitting on one newscast that financial coverage may have played a role. I caught myself blaming overzealous reporting ” more the quantity of it than the quality ” when my life savings took a hit. But I realized it wasn’t the media’s greed and lack of fiscal management that caused the mess.
Society can talk itself into a recession, and I believe we in the media ” particularly the talk-show pundits ” contributed to that. Still, even with fewer pennies in my pocket, the hackles on the back of my neck stand up when I hear someone blame the media for all our ills. Being accountable for one’s actions seems to have taken a back seat in today’s culture.
Willis is a former Muskogee Phoenix managing editor and faculty adviser for the Oklahoma Daily at the University of Oklahoma.