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ISSUE 117 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/19/2003

News succumbs to sensationalism; Private lives of athletes overpowers airwaves and print

By Peter Gloviczki
Staff Writer

Friday, September 19, 2003

On June 30, a 19-year-old female employee at an Edwards, Colo. resort accused basketball star Kobe Bryant of sexual assault. Bryant, a shooting guard for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, claims that the sex was consensual. An Oct. 9 hearing will decide if there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial.

While the public awaits the upcoming hearing, media outlets nationwide have saturated the airwaves with this story. Undoubtedly, the Bryant case should be covered in the media. It involves one of the most recognized athletes in all of professional sports, and the public has a right to know all of the facts that are pertinent to the case.

However, the media outlets also have a responsibility to decide how much coverage is too much. In scrutinizing every detail of this case, the media has sensationalized this story to such a degree that it is no longer simply about the events that occurred in a hotel room last June. From interviews with employees and guests at the posh Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, where the alleged assault occurred, to distant friends and family of the parties involved, the scope of this story has, unfortunately, grown to include individuals who are in no way connected to the case itself

Print journalists are not the only ones to blame; television viewers have seen 24-hour cable news channels broadcast the details of the Bryant case for an inordinate amount of time, and an online search for the phrase “Kobe Bryant Case” at yields roughly 18,100 results.

The Bryant fiasco is not the first time the media has gone overboard with celebrity crime stories. From the O.J. Simpson trial to the Kirby Puckett sexual assault case in Minnesota, athletes – especially well-known athletes – make for a great story.

If journalists continue interviewing parties not directly connected to the incident, they risk alienating an audience who has already grown weary of excessive reporting. All media outlets, whether print, television, radio, or Internet-based, need to recognize their primary goal: to inform the people. As the media works to inform the people, the people must be able to trust that the information that they receive is reported in a manner that is comprehensive, while remaining both pertinent and succinct.

The Bryant case, like so many stories about athletes and scandals during the past decade, has served to tarnish the image of the media. As journalists look for yet another angle on the same story, and pundits endlessly debate the expected outcome of the trial, we have seen and heard details about the situation that are not relevant to the upcoming case.

The media must recognize that such reporting is not necessary. Ultimately, the case will be decided based on the testimony of two individuals: Bryant and his accuser. Therefore, the media coverage related to the case should remain focused on these individuals.

Staff Writer Peter Gloviczki is a sophomore from Rochester, Minn. He majors in political science.

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