Readings: Rotten Journalism

Miriam Weeks, the daughter of a doctor in Spokane, now a freshman at Duke University, hopes to “screw her way all the way to graduation.”

Now do I have your attention?

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I love newspapers. I read four every day. My father wrote editorials for The Trenton Times and four other dailies including The Brooklyn Eagle, which my uncle Frank owned. And I wrote op-eds and a blog for the Newark Star Ledger and columns and articles for the National Catholic Reporter. I taught journalism for over 40 years and generally leap to defend “the press” every time I hear that word snarled. But really rotten journalism breaks my heart.

One of the principles I taught was that the newspaper is the conscience of the community.

I thought for a while that the New York Daily News was at least a little better than the New York Post; but yesterday (Mar.6) the News got right down in the gutter with its rival with its page 3 celebration, with pictures, of “Belle Knox” (known in Spokane as Miriam Weeks) now the most popular personality on campus because she’s a genuine porn star, “with a dozen skin flicks under her belt.”

If there is a distinction between a porn star and a prostitute, it’s a thin line. Both perform sex for money: one in front of a camera in a studio, the other in a hotel, or, depending on Duke’s rules, in a dorm, for money. When prostitutes make the news they are usually being arrested in a brothel raid, or they have been servicing celebrities or politicians. Or they have been murdered.

But this 18-year-old porn star, at least in the Daily News, ranks with an Olympic swimmer or a ballet star, as if she was making a contribution to the culture. Not the slightest hint that this might not be a wise or respectable way for a young woman to make her way in the world. She says that she had heard “that pornography was bad and degrading to women,” but the people she has met are “sweet” and “professional.” Let the word go forth from the Daily News that pornographers are sweet and professional. But someone please tell Ms. Weeks to check the internet for porn stars whose lives end in drunkenness, drugs, AIDS, various other diseases, and murder. That the Daily News fails to include this is evidence of its priorities.

The president and CEO of the News is Wiliam D. Holiber; the editor in chief is Colin Myler, the executive editor is Jim Rich. They set the professional and moral standards for the paper. They know that that page will stay there for generations and that girl will live with it for the rest of her life. Have the News editors and staff no compunction about the message the page sends to their children and grandchildren who are forming their own sense of sexual morality? Apparently all that matters is pulling their circulation ahead of the New York Post.

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Joseph Kalwinski
4 years 2 months ago
My youth was spent in the '50s. Oh happy days!
David Pasinski
4 years 2 months ago
18...Can't smoke or drink legally...this should qualify as child abuse...The "News" is obviously unprofessional, but what does Duke do in this case?
Beth Cioffoletti
4 years 2 months ago
I don't know what to say. The newspapers are in the same gutter as everything else. Whatever sells wins. Whatever is a problem is thrown away. Somewhere along the line we lost the insight that we are sacred: our bodies, our sexuality, our lives. When I was growing up (the 50s) there was a strong taboo surrounding sexuality (and the ever present threat of pregnancy). That all morphed into a world where sex was free, the death penalty was reinstated, and abortion became commonplace and legal. Is it too much to wonder why no one could advise an 18 year old girl (whose father is a doctor!) against such a choice?

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