I’m with the sheriff: Behold the media frenzy in Bryant case
Whenever I criticize the media, I’m always reminded that I’m part of it. But it’s hard to feel connected to something that occasionally – when the story is juicy enough, the name big enough – completely baffles me.
Kobe Bryant was arrested in Eagle County.
Yes, this actually happened. One of basketball’s biggest stars and most talented players, a married man and father with a sterling public image, was taken to the clink right here in the High Country. (Imagine the surprise of the standard Eagle County DUI arrestee when Bryant checked in).
When this story broke on July 6, it was like Christmas morning for the media. Local, regional and national reps from print, radio, television and the Internet filled the Eagle County airport, and they will stay in the mountains until this thing plays out.
At first, I was stunned to see the story lead “SportsCenter” and CNN last Sunday. Then, I remembered what we are dealing with. When this much media is in one spot covering a story that seeps out in tiny droplets, the coverage becomes a sport in itself. Competition for details and angles is the daily game, and the story itself becomes almost secondary.
The local media (hello, Vail Daily) actually ran an item on how the national media was chasing its own tail around Eagle County last week by staking out houses, following each other’s non-leads and stalking local residents.
By the time prosecutors make a decision on whether or not to charge Bryant with a crime – that decision could come as early as today – it will have been two weeks from the alleged incident. It’s got to be driving the media from New York and Los Angeles batty.
These people are under a lot of pressure. Their bosses have invested much time and money into sending them on location, and there has to be a story and pictures every day – even as the case creeps along at a rural Colorado pace.
Thus we get television news reports, with the familiar hills of the lower Vail Valley in the background, about what a stand-up guy Bryant is, how he’s never shown a violent side and how he’s a family man. And we see the same, stale file footage of Bryant torching the Nuggets. Or in print, we get a story about how Kobe’s image will take a hit no matter what the outcome of the case is, and we run a mug shot of Kobe looking dejected, concerned or nervous … on the basketball court four months ago.
We do this because we think you want it.
Do you? Do you really?
Isn’t it enough to report the facts of the case as they become public? Would you feel cheated if you couldn’t read the confessions of the Vail taxi driver who allegedly took Kobe and his entourage to a Glenwood Springs hospital the night Bryant was accused?
“The whole thing was pretty weird and pretty fishy,” the cabbie told a reporter, adding that Bryant was in the back seat with a towel over his head. Enlightening. That single shred of new information was whipped into a 600-word story for Thursday’s papers.
Hey, I played the game. I had to. This sports section ran Bryant’s mug shot more times last week than it did during the entire NBA playoffs. The more anxious-looking, the better. And we wrapped his picture with the cabbie story.
Sheriff Joe Hoy was blasted for saying the media attention on this case is mind-boggling. He mentioned, if it had been anyone else, he would be fly-fishing right now. (Alert: Not a direct quote).
I’m with you Joe. But it won’t baffle me anymore. This is how WE, the media, are.
Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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