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The media is powerful enough to influence the way we think of people we’ve never even met

by on November 4, 2015

If you’ve been on any form of social media lately, I’m sure you’ve seen this ridiculously adorable article of Obama playing with kids. No, this is not a shameless plug for Buzzfeed, but it is an example of how powerful media outlets are in molding the way we view our public officials, or anyone in general. Children are innately good judges of character and regardless of whether or not you agree with Obama’s politics, we can all agree that he is a family man and has a way with kids. This one simple photo essay influences our judgement of Obama and for a minute, almost erases any negative views of him as our president.

Which warrants a few questions: Do you think the media should publish articles that are (supposedly) unrelated to the jobs and roles of people? Do you think it gives insight into how they perform their jobs? Or are they unnecessary bits of information that just plant some determined characteristic in our head?

In this case, the article is a positive addition to our view of Obama. Granted it didn’t involve hacking or breaching his privacy, it still boosted his image, so what’s the harm? Well then, what happens when the article is negative and damages someone’s credibility and reputation? Take for example the 2006 case of Ted Haggard. If any of you remember, he was a pastor, one of Time’s most influential evangelical leaders. But this quickly fell apart when a male escort came forward saying that Haggard bought crystal meth from him. To make it worse, it was later discovered that they had been having an affair for the past three years. It came as a huge surprise to his audience, Time, and the rest of the country. But what about the impact it had on his wife and his five kids? And his congregation? As a successful pastor with an audience of 30 million, this snippet of his his private life completely destroyed his career, reputation, and personal life. In class, we talked about how knowing someone’s private life influences the way we view him/her. Obama has a kill list and approves assassinations every day… But let’s not forget he’s great with kids! We love Obama! ❤ Haggard might be a lying, cheating, homosexual, drug-doing pastor… But he was recognized by Time..! Not the same effect when it’s something negative. In an interview, Grant Haas, a man with whom Haggard had a second affair, said, “(Haggard) used to say to me, ‘You know what, Grant, you can become a man of God, and you can have a little bit of fun on the side.” Do we really want one of the most sacrilegious people as a leader in our churches?

I honestly feel like journalists sometimes cross the line of respecting people’s privacy, especially after watching 20 minutes of “To Catch A Predator.” But in some cases, exposés are necessary to divulge secrets that people we revere hide to protect themselves and their credibility, like with “Pastor” Haggard. What I’ve learned though, is this: If the person has enough power, scandals make news for a little while, and then disappear. JFK and Clinton are still great presidents post-affairs, Kim Kardashian is still an A-lister post-sex tape, and Jennifer Lawrence is still making millions post-nudes. Journalists are just trying to do their jobs by showing the truth and sometimes, breaching privacy is necessary.

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One Comment
  1. I thought this was a very intriguing post. I don’t particularly remember the case of Ted Haggard, but you’ve brought up an interesting point. To me as a journalist, I would feel bad about ruining his career as a pastor and potentially dismantling his family along with it. However, especially being a religious person myself, it is hard to ignore the people who follow Haggard in this situation. His congregation believes that their pastor is a religious man, faithful to his wife and family, and certainly not a meth user. They were being faithful to a man that was lying to them. I would have published this article for those people. It’s unfortunate that you have to take down a man’s career and family by doing so, but I think it is more important to expose the truth and serve the public good. After all, you’re not making lies- this man knew what he was doing and he must’ve known that there was potential for it to be exposed.

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