Talking Points: Ethics and the Chandra Levy Story

Well, a big ethical issue surrounding the missing woman Chandra Levy.   That is the subject of this evening's Talking Points memo.

First off, I'm really tired of talking about the story, and I agree with Dan Rather that some of us in the TV news business have been  shamelessly exploiting the Condit-Levy situation.

But there is now a new subtext to the story.  Talk magazine is printing an article that will be out August 8th saying that Chandra Levy was a serial adulteress, and the magazine has chronicled some of her past affairs with married men.

Now there is no question that a piece like that will be very painful  for the Levy family, and we'll report their reaction in just a few moments.   But the question becomes: Is Ms. Levy's past relevant to her current situation?

Obviously, she's missing after having an intense affair with Congressman Condit.  Is her past behavior important to that story?

A journalistic argument can be made that all information in this mystery is relevant, and that is what Talk magazine will do.

Also, a censorship argument can be made.  Should the media suppress information that will bring suffering to a family in turmoil?

These are difficult and important questions.  Talking Points  would not have run the story simply because it's too hurtful for the Levy family,  but "Points" believes the story should not be censored.  So if Talk magazine can run it and live with themselves, well, that's their  prerogative.

This whole Condit-Levy situation is ultimately being driven by money.   The tedious television panels endlessly speculating are, unfortunately,  drawing an audience.  And Talk magazine will sell a lot of copies by using the promiscuity angle.

There is simply nothing anyone can do about the merger of news and  profits.  It's reality, and it's not going to change.

In the end, this entire story is a major tragedy for everyone  involved, including the media.  The villain at this point is Condit, who remains incredibly insensitive to the Levy family, and the victims are Ms. Levy herself, who is probably dead, and her family, who continue to be  battered by Mr.Condit's silence and the media's insatiable appetite for the story.

We've got to report this, but believe me when I tell you, I'm not going home very happy every night.

And that's the memo.

Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Time now for the "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day."  I'm catching it from both sides because of my rather large mouth.  No shock there. 

What I said was this.  This if Al Gore and Joe Lieberman had come on The Factor and answered the questions and the answered were straight and  not evasive, I believe they would have won the presidential election.   That's because Florida was a virtual tie, and we have a huge audience in  Florida, some of whom, many of whom, were undecided.

President Bush did come on The Factor and he did very well here.  I  got tons of mail from independents who were impressed that he sat for the  interview and had cogent answers. 

I also got a lot of mail from Americans who felt that Gore was a wimp, a guy who would not face a hard interview not only here, but anywhere.  So you do the virtual math.

Anyway, the Democrats don't like my analysis because it implies they blew it by being afraid.  And the Republicans don't like it because it appears Gore had enough firepower to win if he had slightly more courage. 

Now, I respect everybody's opinion on the matter.  But I stand by my  view.  To not do so would be ridiculous.

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