Monday, July 01, 2013
W. Murphy, Hypocrite
During her myriad media appearances commenting on the Duke lacrosse case, adjunct law professor Wendy Murphy came up with virtually everything bad she could possibly say about the three falsely accused players. She wondered whether one of them had been abused as a child. She wildly claimed that false accuser Crystal Mangum had been bribed, that exculpatory photographs had been doctored, and that neighbors had claimed the lacrosse players were involved in other sexual offenses. She even managed to work in an oblique Hitler comparison.
(A reminder: These erroneous statements and bizarre comparisons did not trouble Poynter, the supposedly good-journalism organization which brought in Murphy to lecture to journalists.)
But in all of her media appearances, one area that the adjunct law professor did not explore was a claim that the case was receiving too much attention from journalists. There was no Murphy denunciation of Newsweek for placing the falsely accused players’ mugshots on its cover, under the equally false headline of “Sex, Lies, and Duke.” Nor did the adjunct law professor criticize Nancy Grace for the extraordinary amount of time the HLN host personally devoted to the case (except, of course, on the evening of the exoneration).
Imagine my surprise, then, to read a Murphy op-ed in this morning’s Boston Herald, in which she lambasted the media coverage of murder charges against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. “Like a lot of people who don’t follow sports,” Murphy confesses, she hadn’t known much about Hernandez until a couple of weeks ago—just as she hadn’t heard much of other athletes charged with violent crimes, such as Kobe Bryant, Rae Carruth, and Michael Vick. Why does her ignorance about sports matter? Because “it’s hard for people like me to appreciate the wall-to-wall coverage of a story that seems no different than any other gang-banger murders of late.” Curiosity about athletes allegedly committing crimes, Murphy continues, “doesn’t make its answer news.”
Murphy’s conclusion? “If sports were better understood as simply entertainment, the prosecution of Hernandez would be correctly framed as a run-of-the-mill alleged gang murder in the news section — and sports writers could spill all the ink they want on how peopleabout the guy in section. With angles firmly separated, nobody would misapprehend the story as proof that some murders are more important than others, or that some people’s lives are more valuable than others. We’ve seen enough violence perpetrated by people of wealth, power and influence to know that crime happens in all communities and at all points along the economic spectrum. It’s time for the news media to start conducting itself in a manner that reflects this reality.”
Where was this Wendy Murphy during the lacrosse case, denouncing the media for spending far too much time covering claims against a group of college athletes? It appears as if there’s an exception to this new Murphy rule: crimes allegedly committed by athletes in which members of the media interview Murphy for her opinions deserve wall-to-wall coverage. But if Murphy isn’t seen as an expert, than excess coverage leaves the message that “that some people’s lives are more valuable than others.”
Your daily dose of hypocrisy (and media criticism), courtesy of Poynter’s favorite adjunct law professor.