Jewish World Review Oct. 28, 2002 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Bill O'Reilly

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Consumer Reports

This ain't no game | Now that the sniper case has apparently been solved, it is time to take a hard look at the media's saturation coverage of this horrendous story. And the harsh truth is that some of us actually made the murderous rampage into a game, a kind of macabre sporting event.

Because facts were few and public interest was so intense, TV and radio commentators were forced into the murky world of speculation and drama creation. Is Chief Charles Moose employing the right strategy? Should the authorities pay a ransom? What about the kids? And on and on.

It was almost as if an army of speculation zombies had broken into the cable news studios to spew unending opinions about the al-Qaeda factor, the mental state of the killers, their motivation, their personality traits. America needed actor Jim Carrey to stand up and scream: "Somebody stop me before I speculate again!"

Like any competitive sporting event, we had two teams -- the killing side and the law-enforcement side. Millions of Americans tuned in to see which side was making the play and how the other team reacted.

After a note by the killer was found by police, the media breathlessly reported that the sniper was threatening kids! Newspaper headlines screamed that no child was safe! But the note surfaced a week after a 13-year-old had been shot in front of his school. Any sane American already knew the killer was a threat to kids. No purpose was served by the media hyping a redundant and gratuitous fear quote.

Then we had a report that stated the sniper was annoyed that the hotline operators didn't respond adequately to his calls. Did any American need to know that kind of detail? Did it do us any good to know that? One radio moron even blamed the killing of the bus driver on a stressed-out person answering the hotline. I mean, how cruel is that?

Sooner or later we are going to have to confront the growing irresponsibility of the media in America. Of course, we can't have censorship because then the politicians would rule the world and get away with all kinds of stuff. But what about self-censorship? Shouldn't Americans be encouraged to embrace media that does not get hysterical? Shouldn't faulty reporting and foolish speculation be held against those who do it?

I can tell you that is not happening. Some of the most irresponsible talk radio and cable TV were rewarded with huge audiences during the sniper speculation. I think some Americans actually enjoyed the coverage. That is simply depressing.

The truth is this: No media person could possibly know what kind of job Chief Moose was doing because we have no idea what kind of information he had in his possession. We could not possibly have ascertained the true motives of the sniper because we knew absolutely nothing about him.

Because the airways are owned by you, the people, the electronic media has a responsibility to inform you with facts and responsible analysis of those facts. Once we strayed into the swamp of speculation, we actually became the sniper's accomplices, creating false illusions, promoting rank fear and giving those maniacs their constant dose of attention.

The sniper coverage has exposed the profit-driven American media for what it has become: A band of laptop-carrying marauders that have embraced blood sport with a vengeance.

Now that the suspected killers are out of action, we need to examine just how this terrible story was reported and expose those that profited from being irresponsible. We in the media, of course, will never police ourselves because to do so would damage a major cash business.

So, in the end, it will come down to you, the news consumer. We have you in our sights. And only you can change our aim.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.


10/21/02: It's only rock and roll, but it's brutal
10/14/02: The root of all evil
10/07/02: When children murder
09/23/02: The death of outrage
09/17/02: Singing a different tune
09/09/02: Answering my critics about the Roush case
09/03/02: Let's misbehave
08/26/02: Money makes the world go 'round
08/19/02: Long live the King
08/12/02: A friendly reminder
08/05/02: Heaven only knows
07/29/02: Blood money
07/22/02: Suffer the children
07/15/02: Reaching critical mass
07/08/02: Believe it or not
07/01/02: Charity begins at home
06/24/02: Spinning a tale and the case for "Stupid White Men"
06/17/02: Blank those Europeans!
06/10/02: What does Bono want from us?
06/03/02: On fighting evil
05/28/02: A Tale of Two Churches
05/20/02: Crimes against humanity
05/13/02: Silence of the lambs
05/06/02: Hide the children
04/29/02: 'Paul, Paul, Paul!'
04/22/02: Barbarians in the Church
04/15/02: Pray for peace, polish the weapons
03/11/02: Do no harm? Time to spank "Dr. Phil"
03/04/02: Promoting the general welfare
02/25/02: Who's responsible?
02/19/02: Lay it on them
02/11/02: Buy dope, fund terror
02/04/02: Back room deals
01/28/02: From boom to bust
01/21/02: The Fairness Doctrine
01/14/02: Hey, Paula, take it to the bank and hush up
01/07/02: And justice for none
12/31/01: All that's left
12/24/01: Santa is appalled
12/17/01: Fight the power
12/10/01: The black challenge
12/03/01: How things have changed
11/26/01: Waiting in the Bushes
11/19/01: The sign of the Cross
11/09/01: Hollyweird strikes back
11/06/01: The fear factor
10/26/01: Show me the money
10/22/01: See no evil
10/15/01: Peace, but no quiet
10/08/01: The air war
10/01/01: I don't understand
09/24/01: We are all soldiers, and we have a job to do
09/14/01: Evil on display
09/11/01: Family matters!
09/04/01: End of summer blues
08/27/01: Summertime -- and the livin' ain't easy
08/20/01: The rap on rap
08/13/01: The truth hurts
08/06/01: Amnesty for illegals: Bush's political investment
07/30/01: The big picture on Condit-Levy
07/24/01: Silence of the Shams
07/16/01: Condit, Kennedy and cable news
07/09/01: Heather needs a childhood: The unnecessary loss of innocence
07/02/01: What would have happened if Steven Spielberg had recut "Schindler's List" for German audiences so they wouldn't be confronted with "emotional issues"?
06/25/01: Freak dancing
06/18/01: Work or die
06/11/01: Soundbite nation
06/04/01: Paying through the nose
05/29/01: Graduation Day 2001
05/21/01: Accepting the unacceptable
05/14/01: The Clinton legacy
05/07/01: Kerrey's ordeal
04/27/01: Is the party over?
04/20/01: Racism in public education
04/16/01: The fleecing of America
04/10/01: People who need perspective
04/03/01: Dubya's bottom line --- and ours
03/27/01: Don't tell, don't ask
03/20/01: Greenspan with envy
03/13/01: Clinton and Jackson
03/07/01: All that's left in America
02/27/01: The Letterman experience
02/20/01: Bread and circuses
02/06/01: How the Clintons do it
01/30/01: The Bush dilemma
01/24/01: I have been investigating Jackson's finances for the past two years
01/17/01: Sifting Ashcroft's record

© 2001 Creators Syndicate