ABC News reported here that a teenage boy, Barhoun, protested all the media attention given to him because others thought he looked suspicious. The FBI tagged him as a person of interest in the Boston bombing. The boy turned himself in to stop the negative attention and clear his name. How did we get to this point where we prostitute for story? When did journalism become gossip?
“He (Barhoun) had just gone to watch the race, he said, but soon after the explosions, internet sleuths singled him out as suspicious. Federal authorities passed around images of Barhoun, attempting to learn more information about him,” said ABC. Barhoun’s face went viral on the internet.
Bill O’Reilly warned his viewers and fellow journalists on Wednesday, April 17, about floating photos of “people of interest” on the internet and news. FOX News made a company decision not to post photos the police had of new person of interests. I think this is a lesson for all of us. Before we assume someone is guilty, wait for the evidence. Media and people on social media need to be held accountable.
Negative media attention in this image-driven world can wreck someone’s future and their relationships. Barhoun is only seventeen. His mother was, “”sick and upset” that her son had been connected to the tragedy,” ABC reported. Barhoun isn’t the only victim of eager journalism and internet-happy sleuths.
A bomb went off in the Olympic Village in 1996 and a guard named Richard Jewell became a suspect. Richard Jewell, “discovered a military style backpack sitting unattended on a park bench near a crowded concert area. After asking nearby attendees if the pack was theirs, and finding no owner, Jewell called police and began clearing the area. The pack contained three pipe bombs filled with nitroglycerin and nails, which exploded, wounding 111 people and killing two,” reported a yahoo news article. The media went into a rage and attacked this man’s character.
When authorities cleared his name, his reputation had been shredded. The New York Times, upon reporting of his death in 2007, said, “Even after being cleared, Mr. Jewell said he never felt he could outrun his notoriety. He sued several major news media outlets and won settlements from NBC and CNN. His libel case against his primary nemesis, Cox Enterprises, the Atlanta newspaper’s parent company, wound through the courts for a decade without resolution, though much of it was dismissed along the way.”
In recent years, the news assassinated Sarah Palin’s character. While she fought it, the news did irreparable damage.
Many people become victims of slander nowadays, often for political gain, celebrity-status, sensationalism, or thoughtlessness. When do we stop and think, “Should I post or say this?,” before publishing something or naming a “person of interest?”
It’s no better than gossip. It’s a game where, instead of a court, attorneys manipulate the media, creating a court of opinion; and political figures re-define words to falsely paint a terrible picture of someone. When I think of Barhoun, I think of the lack of boundaries in social media. It’s reflective of our culture. Like a prostitute who ventures out into the streets to sell her body for sex, some sell integrity for the next front page news, number of hits, or votes.