It's been a banner two weeks for the creators and consumers of what I like to call "Junk Journalism," also known as cotton candy reporting.
From the Steve McNair and Arturo Gatti tragedies to the latest report about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the junk journalists have been out in full force ready to vomit more sensationalist drivel down our throats.
On Friday, Roethlisberger was named in a civil suit that claimed he sexually assaulted a woman in a Las Vegas hotel room last year.
As soon as the news broke, the junkalists—my nickname for these idiots—were ready to pounce on Big Ben.
Never mind that he's innocent until proven guilty. Forget the fact that it's a civil suit and zero criminal charges have been filed against him. Let's ignore the fact she waited a year to file the suit and never filed a criminal complaint at all.
Do away with common sense, reason, and decency—all that matters is selling papers, getting noticed, and making money at someone else's expense.
Such is the mind of a practicing junk journalist.
What used to be reserved for the tabloid rags at the supermarket checkout counter is now everywhere—thanks to cable TV, satellite radio, and the Internet. The cotton candy brigade is running rampant on blogs, web 2.0, and the so-called 24-hour news networks.
As the somewhat sordid details of the civil suit were disclosed, Roethlisberger has already been judged and condemned by these poison pen artists, even though not one shred of evidence has been uncovered proving his guilt.
It doesn't matter to the scandalmongers.
Just like it didn't matter when Gatti's wife was tried and convicted by the police and press before any forensic evidence was even collected. Now, it looks as if Gatti may have committed suicide by hanging.
Just like it didn't matter to the families of Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi, who have been devastated and will never fully recover from what happened. It's a sad tragedy, yet the only coverage getting fed to us is of the sensational kind—like the recent report that McNair was drunk when he was shot in the head.
Who cares? Will it change what happened?
Where are the stories on the good McNair did in the community? How about an article on the kind of person Kazemi was before her life spiraled out of control?
How about some light once in a blue moon instead of all this darkness?
A return to common sense thinking is needed, especially with the enormous amount of information, good and bad, readily available to us at the click of mouse.
Is the woman who accused Roethlisberger telling the truth?
I don't know.
What I do know is this: The truth always comes out in the end, and it's better to wait on truth than to cast stones at people, famous or not.
What we need, now more than ever, is to remove the beam from our own eye before trying to find the speck in someone else's.
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