Scandals take away from the important issues

Samantha Gallegos

The media are quick to build people up as bigger than life, but if they get involved in a scandal then the media are also just as quick to tear them apart and fill the news with constant coverage of their mistake.

Recently, former four-star general of the Army and Director of the CIA David Petraeus had his reputation forever tarnished by an extramarital affair with his biographer

In the weeks following this discovery, the media was filled with stories picking apart every possible aspect of the scandal.

It was nearly impossible to escape the television, print and web coverage of the event, but this primary concern for the media also meant ignoring other important stories taking place in the world.

“I think that the role of Director of the CIA is an important role and whether (Petraeus) is being a truthful person is an important issue,” Sacramento State government professor Michael Semler said. “Whether that is to Congress, the president or his wife there is an important responsibility to be honest. So I think Congress and the media should make this story their focus because it could be potentially linked to what happened in Libya.”

The unraveling of lies by someone as highly esteemed as Petraeus is significant, but 24-hour news speculators spent too much time on insignificant aspects of the scandal and not enough time covering other stories.

Whether Petraeus’s deceit could also be linked to him withholding information regarding the Libyan embassy attack is important to uncover. But gossip about the thousands of emails exchanged between the two lovers is something we should care less about.

However the media loves a good sex scandal, especially in politics.

We’ve seen the obsession before with President Bill Clinton, former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and many other high-profile figures whose dirty laundry was aired out in public.

But while media is focused on entertaining the public with stories about sex and deceit, it’s failing to focus on news with more importance.

When the ground war between Israel and Hamas erupted, the media lagged on breaking coverage because of its dedication to the Petraeus scandal.

“They’re emphasizing the wrong thing; the sex. Not whether or not Petraeus was being truthful to Congress and the president,” Semler said. “There were parts of the story that were interesting, such as how an unrelated low-level cyber investigation discovered the damaging emails. But media mainly focused on the sex.”

Semler said America’s obsession with extramarital affairs is actually a fairly recent development, spurred from a public desire to understand the character of the people who govern.

“For a long time, I think the public and media turned a blind eye to extramarital affairs,” Semler said. “But for the last 30 to 50 years we’ve become desirous to learn everything about a person’s character, probably an effect of the popular reality TV entertainment.”

The public isn’t alone in its obsession with these stories. Semler said the media is too because of the apparent draw it has on the public and the battle for viewers and high ratings.

It is apparent that now more than ever Americans want transparency, but clogging up the news with stories focused on one subject does not achieve this. Persistent coverage as a means of destroying someone’s reputation is unnecessary when they have already done so themselves.

The media needs to learn when it’s time to move on to more important stories because the public is not being given the news coverage it deserves.

Even though these are newsworthy stories that need to be covered, it’s important that members of the media understand that every story reaches a point when it has been picked apart enough and it’s time to move on.


Samantha can be reached at: [email protected]