Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Double, no Triple, Media Standards?

Slate writer, Jack Shafer, wrote a provocative article last week on a "double standard" at play in the media's treatment of scandalous love affairs. Now, I think it is easy to pinpoint that double standard at work for women versus men: just look at the flack over CBS chief foreign affairs correspondent, Lara Logan's relationships in Iraq, which spread to the front page of the New York Post. And she's not even a nationally-recognized figure.

But Shafer claims, in light of the new "scandal," or lack thereof, over John Edwards' alleged affair, we need to pinpoint another double standard in media treatment: that of Larry Craig, of the infamous wide stance, versus John Edwards. Questioning why the media hasn't jumped all over the potential affair and love child of a man who campaigned for president on the strength of his family values, Shafer asks:

So why hasn't the press commented on the story yet? Is it because it broke too late yesterday afternoon, and news organizations want to investigate it for themselves before writing about it? Or are they observing a double standard that says homo-hypocrisy is indefensible but that hetero-hypocrisy deserves an automatic bye?

Shafer does point out some of the differences between the two cases (notably, a police blotter in one), and I have never really looked to the National Enquirer, which broke the Edwards story, as a news authority-- but it is impossible to deny that a story, either to verify or debunk, is there, simmering, with everyone too afraid? skeptical? uninterested? to look into it.

But no matter what Edwards actually did or did not do, it seems to me that Shafer has something on the double standards. News media love salacious stories, and in America, here is what is salacious: 1) a beautiful woman with lovers (promiscuous!), 2) a gay senator (gay!). Here is what is run-of-the-mill: a male politician with a mistress on the side.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right now Edwards is a former senator who failed in a second bid to be president. If Obama wins in November and offers him a cabinet spot - then he will be news again.

Sen. Craig became a target because he was a hypocrite who was currently serving and he tried to weasel around the law. That's news.