Before the season started, I made a comment to Pat O’Brien of Access Hollywood that I thought the volume of media coverage of the Kobe Bryant trial would result in higher TV ratings for his games and for the NBA in general (turns out I was right). USA Today ran a headline saying that I said, “rape was good for NBA.” Which I never said. USA Today knew that this headline would gather attention, so they went with it.
The media jumped all over it and made the headline, rather than what I said in the story. It was picked up everywhere. Access Hollywood jumped in the fray and proactively sent out copies of the tape, using out of context sound bitesthat played to the coverage of the USA Today headline. Access Hollywood and USA Today got what they wanted: free advertising. Hundreds of thousands of media impressions quoting or referencing USA Today, Access Hollywood or both.
The question I had then, is the same question I have now? What is the goal of these media outlets? How do they define what is “newsworthy.” It sure appears to me that the news media has evolved from “all the news that is fit to print” to “How much free publicity can we get from this story?”
We are now in an era where media searchesfor stories that will generate media coverage of the story. Stories are written not for the value they bring the readers, viewers or listeners, but rather the volume of coverage they will bring.
Which leads me to the coverage of Kevin Garnett’s war metaphors. Maybe you think his comments comparing his perspective on Game 7 to war as inappropriate, maybe you don’t care. That is not the issue to me. My question is the role of the media.
They all stood there with their recorders on as KG spoke and tookin his comments. Did a single person standing around him ask him if he was sure he wanted to go on the record with those comments? Did anyone jump in and remind him that some might consider the comments insensitive? Thatmaybe he wanted to recant or go off the record so the media wouldn’t quote him?
Lets think this through. If the problemwas that families of those serving our country would be offended by the comments, why didn’t a single media member put the feelings of those people above their need to have a headline?
Everyone in the media has a “headline generator” in their mind when they are doing an interview. They are never surprised by the headlines. They knew exactly what would happen. They would write the story, and the headlines would be KG’s war metaphor. Then KG would have to apologize, and that story would be carried worldwide. The story about the story.
And what about all the newswires that distributed the comments to every media outlet in the world and the outlets that ran, read or presented those comments? Where was the sympathy for the families that KG is accused of not having? If these comments are so insensitive, why run them? What KG said was heard by not more than 15 people. He didn’t put out a press release.
If someone standing with a microphone in KGs face was insulted by the comments, he or shecould have said soand KG could have apologized to them. Beyond the media in the room, if the family of a service member is upset because of what they read, saw or heard in the media, why isn’t the company or person who distributed the comments responsible?
It’s typical media hypocrisywith asad conclusion. We say it not because there is information that we feel our customers want to know, but rather becauseall of media has become so self-serving that a new media quid pro quo has evolved. You run our vapid stories with attribution and we will run yours.
61 thoughts on “Guilt by Headline – The coverage is the story”
As in the days of Christ truth can get you crucified. It is dangerous to criticize the news media.
Comment by Joel D. Presson -
Your scenario is pure fantasy, it’s not even worth considering. There is no way a reporter would let their conscious interfere with their chances of selling a story. And I don’t really blame them, they didn’t tell their interviewee what to say, and they don’t have a responsibility to tell them what might, or what might not be offensive to the public.
I think it’s the public that needs to be scrutinized. If we weren’t interested in the story, it wouldn’t have been reported. I don’t even think that KG should have apologized. I sure wouldn’t have.
You understand how the press works, and I’m sure it’s as frustrating as hell (of course, I have no idea what it’s like to be in your shoes), but can’t you just ignore it?
Comment by Jeff -
What an interesting post. I come from a family that loves the news; as kids we had to watch the news with out parents around the dinner table. Now, my mom spends most of her days tuned into CNBC or FoxNews, etc. It’s unbelivable how opinionated and gaudy the reports have become. It seems to be nothing but shows of “news-reporter commentary” on the supposed “facts.” They’re all after the same thing, “yellow journalism” or the first image, report, etc. that can draw an audience like my mom to the TV set. I mean 9-11, for instance, a solid media frenzy of early-speculations to draw ratings. Where’s the news? Where ARE the facts? They just rush the news to beat the competition and pull down the ratings to boost their image as the “leading news source.” On a side note, I still have to say Countdown with Keith Olbermann still gives an interesting spin to news coverage … too bad he and ESPN couldn’t get along.
Comment by K-Pax -
Comment by EC -
Re: True Power of the Internet
Wow, I’ll remember this one for a long time. A right-winger praising the freedom of information.
Actually, you offer a lot of wisdom. The only way for reasonable persons to form an opinion is to saturate themselves with information that runs the media spectrum. Forget all that, “We inform, you decide” and other similar taglines associated with news corporations and actively search for slants–no matter the polarity.
Comment by mick -
I have a journalism degree, and crap like this is the reason that I’m not using it.
Comment by Prime Time -
Comment by said -
The movie about “60 minutes” was called “The Insider”, not “The Witness”. I just want to correct that guy, in case somebody wants to check it out. It does a good job of making Mark’s point, and it is a great movie.
That guy’s article did remind me of another 60 minutes fake news item. Does anybody remember those exploding chevy trucks…..If you don’t, let me fill you in real quick. “60 minutes” did a story on how these chevy trucks were causing all kinds of deaths because the gas tanks had some problem….well as it turns out, the problem was that “60 minutes” was planting explosive devises on the tanks, and blowing up these poor, helpless, trucks……….The horror,…..the horror.
Comment by P.M. -
Ginsburg was right.
“Whoever controls the media, the images, will control the culture”
We live in a sound-bite society in this country, and it sucks because we are not getting the whole story, and judging by how many times I have seen those prison pictures from Iraq, I know they have time to give us the whole story.
It could be much worse though. Just think if you had to make your sports bets, and fantasy football picks based on the information handed out on “Al-Arabia”, or “Al-Jesiera”.
Comment by P.M. -
I dont think they ran this story in Canada! This is the first I heard of it. Incredibly stupid! In the NHL players and the media always compare hockey to war, it’s no big deal. Who is actually offended by that!!!
Comment by Craig -
Unfortunately our “News” services have evolved into what is known as yellow journalism. This happened when at the end of the 70’s all news became revenue generating departments, as prior to that they were true news services.
I have long wondered this same question of how corrupt our news sources have become in 2 areas:
1. The area of manipulating the news to be sensationalism to sell news papers.
2. The Rupert Murdochs of the world literally manipulate what is reported to their financial or political gain. This is truly the worst of all.
I have come to the conclusion that News services should not be profit generating arms of global telecommunications/entertainment companies but rather should be non profit entities that are strictly to report the news. For those who think this is realistic, this is how it used to be prior to 1980.
I think these non-profit “News” services should be able to use the title “News” and the others should have to refer to it as “entertainment” as that is really what it is.
Sure would be nice if someone that owned a HD Broadcast company would start a fair and unbiased, not for profit news service to protect journalistic integrity not to mention the entire US Democratic system… Mark?
One final note: Two days ago 60 Minutes had a going away party for Hewitt who had basically run 60 Minutes since its inception. They were very proud of their great services but noticed they did not bother to mention how Bergman captured the scoop of the entire series when he documented what was later made a movie of in “The Witness” about the guy blowing the whistle on the cigarette companies and nicotine. Hewitt and 60 minutes and company refused to run the story because their parent companies were basically owned by Phillip Morris. It was picked up by another news agency which had the integrity to run it and then, after it was news, 60 Minutes ran it. 60 Minutes lost all professional integrity at that time, Noel Bergman resigned, and the show was never the same. Funny how they never mentioned anything about that on Hewitt’s goodbye show.
Hewitt and Mike Snyder blew their entire professional integrity in that one decision.
It is funny how money can make the most seasoned journalist’s re-edit what would have been appropriate…
Comment by Robin -
I can’t believe you criticize the media for what you describe as “brilliant”.
“Lets think this through. If the problem was that families of those serving our country would be offended by the comments, why didnt a single media member put the feelings of those people above their need to have a headline?”
So the media should be responsible for Kevin Garnett’s reputation (keeping his comments off the record) and they should consider people’s feelings over headlines that drive sales?
What about MLB considering the fans and how they felt with putting ads on the bases? Was that even a consideration over makeing money and generating hype for a movie? That was “brilliant” even though it pissed off a lot of fans. Well, screw them, because that’s marketing, right? I guess if it’s the media it’s different.
Comment by chuck -
Wouldn’t that be great. Steve Kerr as a bench coach. The media does take everything into overdrive. The only way we would hear less or read less is only by boycotting their opinions. KG metaphor was a metaphor for a basketball game. I guess some writers don’t know what a metaphor is.
Comment by Vale -
Unfortunately, the sad truth of the matter is that this is only going to get worse. There are a very small percentage of people in America that are able to think on this level and the rest simply can not get enough sensationalism. This is proven by the success of shock jocks on the radio, and talk shows on TV. Ninety-five percent of Americans are glued to this type of entertainment because they need other people to tell them how they should feel about things. News reporters are now a part of this entertainment industry and are simply providing a commodity that these people unfortunately desire.
Comment by CollierT -
It was a metaphor…We use it everyday in our lives. The news media is so hungry to break “THE” news that a mans “metaphor” has to be scrutinized, analyzed etc…etc. It’s disgusting…further more polls had to be taken..what a waste of time.. AS Mark put it so eloquently..media hypocrasy with a sad conclusion…nuff said!
5 yrs Mavs season ticket holder, love what you are doin Mark…all the way…never give up..!
Comment by Vash -
Mark, why don’t you publish a magazine which is aimed directly at this issue? Think about it, comments are taken out of context everyday to fit the media’s self-serving purposes. Why not run stories which expose the true details and maybe even start a ranking of media outlets which are most guilty of such bent truths along with challenges that you made so perfectly clear in your story.
There are consumer buying guides for everything which help us to make decisions on what products we can trust most. There is no such thing for the media which reaches our ears and eyes that we buy into because they show us what THEY want to show us. There needs to be a periodical which challenges these media forms to serve the public with more integrity.
Comment by Fidel Montoya -
Well said Mark. The media plays favourites with NBA players. Just look at how they treat KG. With KG using gun references to discuss game 7 with the Kings, no one seems to care. But if someone like Steve Nash wears a shirt proclaiming peace, he gets ridiculed by the media for it. Here in Toronto, the media claimed that Nash was being a hypocrite and not supporting the soldiers overseas. Obviously people who are perceived as “good people” get first preference. But for people like Mark Cuban who voices his opinion openly during and after Mavs games, he is perceived as a villian. This is truly a double standard since the media will always choose sides when it matters to them. I just think that the meida is pissed Cuban made the Mavs good again and they are finally getting some exposure. Maybe the media does like the rags to riches story as much as watching a riches to rags story!
Comment by Christie -
Check out the current issue of the Observer for the column by John Gonzalez. It makes basically the same point, but from a different angle.
Comment by William -
You definitely have a way of massaging people. I noticed that after the Kings elimination tonight, that C-Webb used business analogies. Word sure does travel quick.
It is amazing what you have done with the Dallas Mavericks.
Besides eating, players now have a new bench. Really it is not a bench, but a group of specially-designed massage type chairs that offer back support and extra padding. In the locker room, they have individual showers along with extra plush, monogrammed $20 towels and even luxurious robes (the five star diamond resort style). The food and shower service is provided to the visiting team as well — making it one of the favorite stops for players and an equally unpopular one for their coaches and general managers. Players around the league exchange stories about how the Mavs owner treats his “own players like kings”. A full-time massage therapist is available as well as a total contemporary hydrotherapy pool.
Cuban took note shortly after buying the team the toll on the players inflicted by the NBA lifestyle of draining travel. Again food caught his immediate attention.
“Players have to work harder to overcome plane food,” said Cuban,.
757 Boeing jet complete with a weight room, and medical room, gourmet food for the Mav organization and opposing teams, personal showers, and other stuff.
I wonder how many free agents you are going to attract? Has it only been two seasons?
Comment by Fanatic -
Its not just the media that blows things out of proportion and tries to mislead the public. The government, law enforcement, and business all do their best to twist the facts and mislead the public in order to sell products or their points of view. They use the media that is all too willing to make up the news or call a press release news.
Comment by Stuart -
Excellent site, I just found it and I will be a loyal reader as long as it is here.
Guilt by Media Headline is absolutely one of the most frightening realities of today’s society. I recently attended an event hosted by the Poynter Institute, a media school that studies and advises news organizations in reference to the proper and diligent follow through necessary in the use of eye-witnesses and other undisclosed sources. (Think NY Times scandal) At the event, an associate editor of a MAJOR Florida newspaper said (paraphrased), “we set out to change the world, and we’re making progress,” in response to criticisms about the media’s intentional use of selective editing and headlining.
Today’s media are 100% politically motivated (one way or another). Don’t think for a minute that those politics aren’t carried over to the world of Sport. The controversy and hysteria over the games in Athens is a great recent example. A better example is the question, why is it applauded when Hockey players beat up on one another but it is an example of “decaying morals” and “the gangster thug culture” whenever KG or other NBA players get heated on the court. There is an answer: sports have constituency groups, same as political parties. They are criticized and praised in the same manner. There are definitely racial undertones to the media’s choice of portrayal — but not based on simple racial motives — based on socio-political motives. The media is no longer in the business of reporting; they have appointed themselves the cultural engineers of our society — out to surreptitiously sway those who lack the critical thinking skills to properly evaluate the motives of those who write the stories.
Comment by Tampa Student -
To say that the media is obsessed with story generation and that news isn’t news any more is a fair statement, to ask reporters to tell their subjects that they might hurt someone’s feelings is silly and idealistic. The media has one responsibility, and they have been doing poorly enough at that alone of late, so why on earth would we decide to give them more responsibilties. They should print with integrity, but they don’t need to baby sit.
Comment by Robert J. Bingaman -
First, loved the whole post. Right on point (oops, I think that was a military reference). You have such a refreshing outlook on sports, and life in general. It’s nice to see someone waive the bullshit flag about things that seem to be accepted just because “that’s the way things are”. Now for my humble opinion on one aspect of the post.
I have been in the military for 7 years and have served in the Middle East. That being said, who the hell is offended by an athelete’s war references? Certainly not me, and I don’t see work production go down because an announcer called a touchdown pass a “long bomb” or forwards “battled for position” in the paint. I mean seriously, does the media really think our troops serving are affected one way or another by athelete’s comments? It appears, since I hear no one actually in the military making statements on this issue, that the media is just trying to protect our fragile little ears from hearing such horrible atrocities uttered on television. Kinda funny, since we’ve sworn to “defend the Constitution of the United States”. I have to admit that I don’t carry a copy with me, but I seem to remember a little passage about “the right to free speech”, or something along those lines. So we’re supposedly upset about someone exercising the rights we’re fighting for? (I know, I know…sorta) Finally, I think it’s kind of a cool job that someone else would refer to so fondly. You didn’t hear KG say “those guys were all over me like a copier out of toner, and now it’s time to show up with that toner”. Also, if sports aren’t a microcosm of war, then I don’t know what is. All major American sports at the very least have some strong inherent similarities to war. They all involve defending one goal while trying to attain another. The similarities are there, and it would be more obvious if atheletes and announcers didn’t mention the similarities than the fact that they so often do. Sorry, I know that was a little off topic. Thanks for your time.
Comment by Ike -
They put people on T.V. talking about their diabetes, and then I find out someone’s opening 25 Do-Nut stores in Europe!.. Is their a difference between $200 million and another 20 or so?.. What Next?.. I think D.C. ought to (Dough-Nate) a portion of his profits to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.. Mary Tyler Moore would love that!!!..I’m PISSED!!..Mary, I’m workin’ on something, if Mark helps me out with the horsepower, (not money), we’ll send you some big checks-$$$$$!..AKA..The River Kid..
Comment by ShadNet -
I was in journalism for 18 years, all of it in small-town newspapers. One change I saw was the loss of the “gatekeeper” role. A newspaper editor could use some judgment and not run a story that he/she thought might be offensive or hurt people without justification. (There are some stories you must run that will hurt people, but you hope the public good justifies the hurt.)
But even in community journalism, the competition and invasion of the large-market media essentially took away the gatekeeper’s role. If you don’t run it, someone else will. I refused to run anything that I thought would be offensive and I was especially concerned about the fact that children read the newspaper.
Obviously, I was a dinosaur and that was one of many reasons why I left journalism and now do battle with teen-agers in a high school classroom every day.
Withholding of information once was common. The media once refused to publish any information or photograph about President Franklin Roosevelt’s disability. The media turned the other way when faced with information about JFK’s womanizing.
Nowadays, those decisions seem laughable. But perhaps for the time, they were appropriate decisions. In a society that required that Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore’s characters have separate beds, do you think that an onslaught of JFK womanizing stories would have been accepted? I was only a toddler then, so maybe I’m clueless. Perhaps some older folks can offer perspective.
The saddest part of all of this is that we aren’t getting the real journalism that we need. Too many resources are going toward winning today’s battle of the headline instead of digging up the stories that will make a real difference. Iraq coverage is all about body counts. Is there any rebuilding going on over there? The best story I’ve read about Iraq was produced by a retired journalist who flew over there to visit her daughter, who is in the military. It gave a better perspective to the war than the zillioni other stories I’ve seen.
Mr. Cuban, thanks again for calling it like you see it.
Comment by Tim Wood -
Mark… if you can get rid of Del replace him with Steve Kerr as the Mavs defensive coach… then when Nellie decides he wants to retire move Kerr into Nellie’s position.
I don’t know what it is but I see Kerr being a future hall fo fame coach.
Comment by Rick Mavis -
Did any of you catch ESPN Radio this afternoon when they started talking about this blog entry? They were so-so-so defensive that it was obvious there is truth in what Mark said though they were denying it.
Comment by William -
I would love to post that on my website. Only with your permission of course. That is the best stuff I have read in a long time.
(no offense to our host)
Comment by Mike -
The part that gets me is that the same writers who wrote how “KG needs to be a better role model for our kids,” wrote in their columns the day before how much of a softie he was for not hitting Anthony Peeler back.
So, lets get this straight.
It’s not alright to make metaphors that MIGHT offend people, but it’s not only ok, but you’re expected to fight back.
Comment by Rob -
I could really care less about what KG said – so he was a little too descriptive in his “war” metaphor.. geeze.. talk about blown out of proportion.
Comment by The Zany Sports Lady -
When the world stops promoting controversy and starts celebrating achievement, then you wont have to deal with petty stories like this.
Anything you say can be offensive to someone, somewhere – no matter how petty the remarks.
Comment by Dan -
I agreed with you when you made the comments before the season and I agree with you now. Kobe’s controversy did peak interest in the league, especially when he would tear it up the same day he was in court.
The media stopped being legit during the Vietnam war when they began to manipulate the news to paint a more dramatic picture. They are no longer interested in reporting what actually happened when they can make up a story that will increase their ratings or circulation.
What I find the most amusing is these same reporters that manipulate the news are the ones who scream the loudest about “journalistic integrity.”
Comment by Phil Hull -
Interesting stuff! Its amusing that most of us know about the inconsistencies of the media, yet we will still watch and be influenced whether we like it or not…
Mark, I say buy a big newspaper, and try to run it using your ideals. I think it would be very hard… But still an admirable attempt.
I’m just 25, i hope my cynicism doesn’t increase as I become older.
Comment by Arash Mazloum -
Remember, who voted for Kevin Garnett as MVP? That’s right, SPORTS WRITERS AND VARIOUS MEMBERS OF THE SPORTS MEDIA WHO SPECIFICALLY WORK WITH THE NBA! Bottom line: They need the media just as bad as the media needs them. It’s a double standard, they’ll vote him for MVP, but then they’ll post these qoutes that he said to make him look like an ass. To be honest, if I had just read the qoute as it was said, or heard him say it, I wouldn’t have thought I was supposed to be offended by it. I would have thought he was a little bit crazy, but it’s the kind of thing basketball players say all the time. I know KG was using it metaphorically, I know he wasn’t saying it to be controversial, he was just saying it to get his point across. But it’s the headlines, you’re exactly right Mark, that change your emotion about the context. Because the headline was: “KG Compares Game Seven to War” and not “KG ‘ready for war’ in Game Seven”, you were automatcially told it’s not about the game, it’s about KG’s comments.
Don’t we call three point shots bombs? War metaphors are used all the time, and yes we are in a more sensitive time with it right now, but if you are truly offended by what he said: don’t root for him. But everything a player says gets taken out of context. It’s like when Dirk exploded after the Miami game. Did he really necesarily explode? All he said was what was clearly obvious to anyone paying attention: Hey, we’re not on the same page. That’s not controversial! Hell, it’s hardly news! It’s not like Dirk came out called Mark Cuban a bitch, said Steve Nash sucked, Antione Walker was a whiny titty baby and Nellie could suck his dick because he’s the best player on this team and he isn’t getting enough touches, blah blah blah. But Dirk’s comments are usually so vanilla, that he says something a little outside the box and the media freaks the hell out about it and Randy Galloway takes phone calls about “your take on Dirk’s comments”. And then the headline reads “Dirk Goes Off After Heat Beat the Mavericks”. I read that and thought, that’s going off? That’s nothing! But you know what, I still read it. And that’s the point.
Comment by Kellen -
I find it funny that you are blasting away at the media and its editing and soundbites when you have used these very things to help further yourself, your basketball team, and your burgeoning TV career. I’ve always thought that if someone was willing to put themselves in front of a camera and into the hands of the media outlet that owns the rights to the tape, then they should be able to face the consequences, good or bad.
We all know that what is shown on the news is that which will create the greatest headlines. That is an old story. I am going to say this in the nicest way possible, but if you don’t want to be a headline and offend anyone, keep your mouth shut. They can’t misquote you if they don’t have anything to quote.
Comment by Victoria -
I partially agree with some of the comments above. When the media jumps all over something like this KG’s comments, it’s probably worth dealing with the stupidity of the angle they take on it just to get the press at all. If nothing else, a bunch of people will know KG’s name when they didn’t before.
Nobody is going to take it seriously, in terms of his equating basketball and war. The media itself, in its coverage of NBA often uses phrases like “weapons” and “firepower” to deal with offensive skill, and KG’s comments are no more than a stretch in that familiar direction. He should be lauded for his passion, or dismissed for his silliness, but not reprimanded for insensitivity.
Kobe’s situation is different for obvious reasons. Not all press is good press, if the nature of the issue itself is damning. Whatever happened and however the case turns out, a sexual assault case is a serious issue, with someone losing out either way (either the alleged victim’s suffering, or the suffering of a someone wrongly accused of a serious crime).
The sensational nature of the press is something that can and should be exploited where possible. It’s a great opportunity for KG to do some charitable work with armed forces or victims of war or terror, bringing yet more press to their cause (perhaps after the playoffs end), and to bring yet more press for himself, his team and the league. Maturely handled, the “blow up” can be turned into something positive, and everybody benefits, despite the inconvenience and mock outrage.
Kobe’s situation is obviously very different, as there is no possibility of a happy ending for everyone at this point, so a result that makes one side of the dispute happy will upset the other side, and for this reason any attempt to generate publicity will likely backfire. The tragedy is that Kobe has already lost, in terms of endorsements and marketability, possibly never to recover completely, even if acquitted. Let us hope that this is the biggest tragedy that has occurred or will occur.
Bad press of a trivial nature is an opportunity, bad press of a serious nature is bad press. I’m sure Mr. Cuban has lawyers advising him, but in the case of his comments about the trial improving ratings, I think he was right in his analysis but that it was a bad idea to discuss it publicly, as it adds fuel to the fire of the bad press.
Comment by Bryan Norrie -
“I cannot wait until they finally break that protection with the White House.”
If you truly believe this, then explain why the media has felt a need to run pics from Abu Ghraib ad nauseum, but barely mention a story where a Doctor in Houston just outfitted seven Iraqis with prosthetic hands 10 years after Saddam Hussein’s henchmen chopped those hands off at…Abu Ghraib.
Oh, THAT liberal media.
Comment by Brandon -
If you’re lucky, you live in a town such as I where the local paper gives daily instruction on how we should live, eat, breathe, vote and function. How could you not subscribe to such a publication of such stature, fact-based bias and knowledge? We should all become enthralled with the media and become “Stepford America!”
Comment by Tammy K -
This is why you need players like Kobe and Garnett on your team. Not only are they great players, but they know exactly how to play the media. These guys are marketing genius’s by saying and doing what they have done they have gotten their teams tremendous ratings and publicity. Kinda like you and your Dairy Queen media stunt Mark…remember that!
Comment by Dan Patrick -
tiny bit more important than KG.
– Something That DIDN’T Make The News
SUBMITTED BY J, L, CR & TJ Morrison
SOMETHING THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE NEWS
by Bob Lonsberry 5-7-04
Maybe you’d like to hear about something other than idiot Reservists and naked Iraqis.
Maybe you’d like to hear about a real American, somebody who honored the uniform he wears.
Meet Brian Chontosh.
Churchville-Chili Central School class of 1991. Proud graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Husband and about-to-be father. First lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
And a genuine hero.
The secretary of the Navy said so yesterday.
At 29 Palms in California Brian Chontosh was presented with the Navy Cross, the second highest award for combat bravery the United States can bestow.
That’s a big deal.
But you won’t see it on the network news tonight, and all you read in Brian’s hometown newspaper was two paragraphs of nothing. Instead, it was more blather about some mental defective MPs who acted like animals.
The odd fact about the American media in this war is that it’s not covering the American military. The most plugged-in nation in the world is receiving virtually no true information about what its warriors are doing.
Oh, sure, there’s a body count. We know how many Americans have fallen. And we see those same casket pictures day in and day out. And we’re almost on a first-name basis with the pukes who abused the Iraqi prisoners. And we know all about improvised explosive devices and how we lost Fallujah and what Arab public-opinion polls say about us and how the world hates us.
We get a non-stop feed of gloom and doom.
But we don’t hear about the heroes.
The incredibly brave GIs who honorably do their duty. The ones our grandparents would have carried on their shoulders down Fifth Avenue.
The ones we completely ignore.
Like Brian Chontosh.
It was a year ago on the march into Baghdad. Brian Chontosh was a platoon leader rolling up Highway 1 in a humvee.
When all hell broke loose.
The young Marines were being cut to ribbons. Mortars, machine guns, rocket propelled grenades. And the kid out of Churchville was in charge. It was do or die and it was up to him.
So he moved to the side of his column, looking for a way to lead his men to safety. As he tried to poke a hole through the Iraqi line his humvee came under direct enemy machine gun fire.
It was fish in a barrel and the Marines were the fish.
And Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the .50 cal unload on them.
Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.
And he ran down the trench.
With its mortars and riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers.
And he killed them all.
He fought with the M16 until it was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.
At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion.
When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon’s flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.
But that’s probably not how he would tell it.
He would probably merely say that his Marines were in trouble, and he got them out of trouble. Hoo-ah, and drive on.
“By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, 1st Lt. Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
That’s what the citation says.
And that’s what nobody will hear.
That’s what doesn’t seem to be making the evening news. Accounts of American valor are dismissed by the press as propaganda, yet accounts of American difficulties are heralded as objectivity. It makes you wonder if the role of the media is to inform, or to depress – to report or to deride. To tell the truth, or to feed us lies.
But I guess it doesn’t matter.
We’re going to turn out all right
Comment by Jackson -
How are KG’s comments offensive? Every half wit knows that real war and basketball have very little in common. If you are “outraged” when something like this happens you need to get punched. When Francisco Elson called KG gay for allegedly touching his junk, how is that offensive?! If a male touches another males junk, it is often perceived to be homosexual behavior. If I call Elton John gay, is that wrong? The hyper sensitive over dramatic media needs to get a clue.
Comment by Jackson -
You left out the worst part of the press coverage, which is when the press starts talking about the actions of the press. Dan Patrick is one of the worst about doing this (and I change the radio station every time he does). Unfortunately, I’m sure your blog entry probably will generate more of this.
Eventually, I hope that new news sources that verify their stories and weed out the useless junk (e.g. the KG war story) and market themselves as such will evolve and people will use them because they see the value in the time savings. Slate and “The Week” are in the right direction but not quite there (for different reasons).
Comment by William -
I think combating this kind of thing in the media may be one of the best uses of the internet. Although, I think it is still largely untapped. Peronal Webpages, e-zines, and now blogs could all be used to help the individual come to a conclusion about the truth on a particular issue.
The real problem is that every outlet for information has an agenda. Traditional news outlets’ agenda is profit. Authors of personal webpages and blogs may be liberal or conservative or anarchist or whatever and their own agenda seeps into what they write. So, as individual readers we are responsible for filtering and then synthesizing all that information until we get to the truth.
There are two tools that are necessary to being able to do this. First, is education. It’s important to have some sort of base knowledge in order to have an understanding on a topic. Second, is to use a broad spectrum of sources. If I use only Drudge and Fox News for my sources then really I am only getting a conservative viewpoint and really the agendas are the same (profit). But if I include CNN and blogs of notable liberally slanted people also then I get a more rounded perspective and am better able to form my own conclusion (although I will still probably think the liberals are full of hooey).
Comment by Larry L Johnson, Jr. -
I was watching the 11-12 pm (PST) Sportscenter last night and Linda Cohn was reading the results of a ESPN.com poll that said 75% of respondents WERE NOT offended by KG’s comments. By the way she read the results you KNEW that the network would have preferred for people to be offended.
What’s up with the false outrage and mock indignation shown anytime an athlete says something remotely “controversial”? I was disappointed with T. Kornheiser & M. Wilbon for falling into the “We’ve got to cover our butts and have the P.C. response” on yesterday’s PTI.
Comment by glenn -
We know that you love the media. I did not bother to piclup a paper (although I did not see the headline on their website?).
The media ia a business. The days of protecting players, coaches, or celebs is over. I cannot wait until they finally break that protection with the White House.
Comment by Fanatic -
The media is in it to sell papers or get ratings so they
can sell ads. That’s well known.
Unfortunately, athletes who truly have something to say
(like Steve Nash) eventually learn to sensor themselves.
The devolve into nothing but cliches (“Both teams played hard”).
Charles Barkley is the one man who has beaten the system.
He so frequently throwns out stupid, insensitive and/or
racists statements, and so consistently refuses to
back off of them, that he has earned immunity from the press.
Now, he’s able to say anything he wants, even if it doesn’t
make a bit of sense, and no one cares.
I wish more athlete would be like the Chuckster.
Comment by Robbie Barton -
Thanks citing another example of how essentially all of the images and sounds bombarded upon us are carefully crafted to ellicit a desrired emotion. They want us coming back for more. The phrase “news junkie” may have more merit than we think. As anyone who has ever been witness to or involved in a story that has been broascast, it is very apparent that facts are loosly tied together without much examination or confirmation to create the most sensational story possible. I am sorry that we as a nation continue to support this type of ‘news’. Perhaps you can offer suggestions on combating the phenomenon. Turn off the tube? Refuse to support advertisers paying big money to have their products shown? It seems as if this is a battle that will never be won in our current society. Luckily we are entering an age of alternative information sources, as evidenced by dropping ratings of nightly newscasts. Perhaps we can someday know unadaltereated truth. Although that wont sell as much antacid, cars, or cleaning products.
Comment by Mike -
I recently attended an event hosted by the Poynter Institute, a media school that studies and advises news organizations in reference to the proper and diligent follow through necessary in the use of eye-witnesses and other undisclosed sources. (Think NY Times scandal) At the event, an associate editor of a MAJOR Florida newspaper said (paraphrased).
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The food and shower service is provided to the visiting team as well — making it one of the favorite stops for players and an equally unpopular one for their coaches and general managers. Players around the league exchange stories about how the Mavs owner treats his “own players like kings”. A full-time massage therapist is available as well as a total contemporary hydrotherapy pool.
Comment by runescape money -
In this blog entry, Mark Cuban: “Before the season started, I made a comment to Pat O’Brien of Access Hollywood that I thought the volume of media coverage of the Kobe Bryant trial would result in higher TV ratings for his games and for the NBA in general (turns out I was right).”
Current (4/19/06) headline on ESPN– “Demand for Duke lacrosse gear soars” (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=2413794)
Comment by JohnD -
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Comment by cialis -
KG’s comments were just a metaphor. Just because he is a celebrity doesn’t being he can’t speak “guns and wars” like the kids of those soldiers in Iraq play with. I’ll bet the kids of the soldiers in Iraq are always in the backyard, pretending to hold AK-47’s! The media is just desperate. It’s kind of retarded. The press should present the truth to everyone, not pick on some informal comment by KG.
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Comment by buy Cialis -
You made perfect sense that media should be responsible for their actions. Well if that was the case there wouldnt be any jobs left for them. Everybody in today’s ultra competitive world looks to find ways to distinguish themselves from their peers. I am just assuming that when you run your businesses sometimes you make decisions that you feel is not exactly the right thing to do but its not morally wrong either. So I am not saying you do this, but if you did then please do not judge others who are just trying to get ahead in their profession. Just my .02 cents
Comment by vk -
You’re absolutely right, Mark. These media generated controversies are ridiculous. This week ESPN took it to a new level with Larry Bird’s “controversial” comments. There were countless articles, news features, and discussions about Bird’s comments about white basketball players. All of these stories in the media mentioned that there was a big controversy over how the comments were insensitive and offensive. The stories and discussions then went on to debate whether or not people should be offended or not by the comments. But the whole premise for these discussions was a media developed sham. There was no controversy and nobody was offended. There was no outcry from either the white or black population. It was not even possible. The show and interview in which Bird made the comments hadn’t even happened yet. It aired last night, several days after the supposed controversy. There should be an order of events here. First the comments should be made, then the public should have strong mixed reactions (i.e controversy) and then the media should cover that resulting controversy. But the media no longer cares about that second step. The same thing happened with KG and his war comments. His comments actually broke with the the preface that everybody was offended by them.
Comment by Wade -
You have forgotten that this WAS a sensationalized story. I don’t think Mr. Cuban blames the media for what KG had said, but for how they treated the comments. This was a headline on SportsCenter, for chrissake!!! It was tossed around for days on the top of every sports news program!!! Talk about a filler!!! Look out, because sports news only gets better in the summer: Baseball, (filler), Baseball, (filler), (snore), (filler), etc.
My solution for all these reject-headlines? Give some news on sports form around the globe, or lesser “known” events. After all, isn’t the role of the media to inform the public of their “observations”? If a public are malinformed on subjects, let them know.
Okay, by now you should know what I’m getting at, so I’ll just say it: Give me more soccer coverage!!! At the very least, sports news could escape the filler and provide new(s) information to a largely naive audience. No?
I could be wrong.
Comment by mick -
Mark: I had to answer this one because it has a personal attack built in.
It is not the job of writers, TV people or radio journalists to correct mistakes, nor is it their job to cover those mistakes up.
The media, in its ideal form, which obviously doesn’t exist in America much, is to be an observer and reporter. When I was in news more than I am now, I reported on a city council member who denegrated Hispanics and stereotyped them as being bad and dirty tenants. I did not sensationalize the story, I simply reported what he said and the possible outcome. It was not my JOB to stop him from saying what he felt, nor should it have been. He felt that way, his constituents deserved to know that.
Was the light flashing in the back of my mind, “Hey, this is going to be a huge story for you.”? Yes. Of course it was, I’d be a crappy reporter if it weren’t. Basketball players live to hit the game winning shot to win a title, reporters live to get a story that scoops their competition and brings light to their abilities.
It’s simple Mark, we all want to be the best. In your business, being the best is bringing technology to people that is better and more hyped than your competitor. In our business, it’s giving people information they can’t get from anyone else, or giving it to them first. MARKETING IS PRESENT EVERYWHERE, headlines are just a part of it.
This entire argument is based on journalists using ethics, which do still exist, and not sensationalizing things, which also still exists. It is predicated on people not “taking things out of context.” However, you have to understand, taking things out of context would be you saying, “This trial will certainly not aid Kobe’s street cred and will not bring up ratings.” and the media quoting you as saying, “This trial will… aid Kobe’s street cred and … bring up ratings.”
If you said that it will be a partial boon to the NBA and Kobe, that isn’t out of context, that’s just what you said. At the time, I thought you were correct.
The problem here is one of responsibility. If you don’t want to get dogged for something you say, don’t say it. It’s a simple case of not blaming someone else when you could take responsibility. Don’t blame officials for crappy calls until your team plays a perfect game. Don’t blame the media for reporting something stupid said by KG until he stops saying stupid things.
The media has a job to do. Report things that happen to people who can’t be where it is happening. Moreover, make sure those things are what the people WANT to know. The media has found that people don’t WANT to know what is happening in sub-Saharan Africa or in Nepal. They want to know what is happening in Hollywood. It’s mundane and stupid, but it’s the case anyhow. They can’t be there, we can, simple as that.
Comment by Paul Kincaid -
Mark, you especially should know that we as a society pay more attention to things celebrities say. For better or for worse. Whether or not the media adds to that frenzy is a good centerpiece for debate, but the fact remains: if I walk into my favorite diner and blurt out some insensitive war metaphors, chances are my comments won’t be on the evening news that night.
Basically, anytime a celebrity or athlete “speaks”, the cameras are rolling. That’s the price they pay, for their fame. It’s the implicit deal they struck. It’s been that way for awhile. For better or worse, their comments, attitudes, even lifestyles are scrutinized by the public. It’s the sickness of our star-crazy society, but a fact nonetheless.
Comment by dave -
Comments are closed.