Wednesday, October 4, 2006
There's been a lot said recently about the Fourth Estate and its responsibilities to the public. I can say that I was once a proud member of that "estate" and to some degree, through this column, still am. It's a little known fact that before I changed professions, I had stints at nearly every print job in the city. You name it: the Associated Press, Jackson Advocate, Mississippi Link and even the Mississippi Business Journal took a chance on a young journalism graduate. I even ran a teleprompter at WAPT. I guess you could say my first few post-college years were spent devoted to the media.
But lately, I've been disgruntled—sometimes disgusted—at the direction some media outlets have taken. More so, the attitude of some news anchors is deplorable. I don't even have the time or space here to start on Fox News—that's an entire column to itself. But it's obvious that one CNN anchor has a penchant for grandstanding, too. This time it may have led to someone taking her own life.
Recently, the 21-year-old mother of a missing 2-year-old in Florida committed suicide. Sad, but not unusual. However, some speculate that an appearance on CNN's Headline News with Nancy Grace drove her to it.
The mother, Melinda Duckett, told authorities that her son disappeared from his crib one night a few weeks back, and all that remained was a 10-inch cut in the window screen. Later, she was a guest on Grace's show, which often focuses on missing-persons cases. Duckett, whom one would expect to be grief stricken, tripped over her words during a phone interview. Again, not surprising. What I think was inappropriate was Grace's reaction. Obviously frustrated, Grace raised her voice and pounded her desk, still hurling questions long after it was clear that Duckett was flustered.
Now, I'm not defending Duckett. Her lack of an alibi matters, and anyone can make dark assumptions as to why she committed suicide. But if, indeed, it was Grace's badgering that pushed her to the brink, then we've got to rethink the lengths to which the media go.
One of the reasons I lost my taste for hard news reporting—other than my passion for music—was that like the music business, at times you have to be cold, calculating and heartless to succeed. For me, taking those risks and aggressively getting in folks' business just wasn't worth it. At least not on the starting salary for a reporter.
Who's going to police the Nancy Graces of the world? How can we voice displeasure with an entire "new" channel (Fox) devoted to pushing a conservative agenda? How many presumably innocent people are going to be sacrificed for some anchor's celebrity?
Unfortunately, now any chances of finding the missing boy have been seriously handicapped because the last person to see him is dead. Let's hope that Grace being overzealous had nothing to do with that. And that's the truth … sho-nuff.
They should have a position waiting on Nancy Grace over at FOX Im sure.