Media Coverage of Government and Politics on Scandals

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JOUR420 Media Coverage of the Government and Politics
Final Paper
Topic: Coverage on Scandals

In light of the latest scandal involving a once well-respected Republican Congressman Mark Foley, and under-aged page, I felt it was relevant for this final paper to focus on scandals prompted by politicians. Scandals are one of the ‘hottest’ topics that the media thrive on, regardless of which decade they materialize in. For the same reasons as why infotainment (or just plain entertainment news) and celebrity gossip is so popular and never seems to cease, human beings with a natural curious behavior and a nose for dirty tittle-tattle feel that news on one’s private life is vital information, especially if it is not ethical or there is a dark secret involved. The media are aware that scandals sell, and as the cliché goes, “bad news is good news” and thus when a scandal erupts, extensive coverage is given to these juicy stories. Alongside the ‘Mark Foley Page Scandal’ (Foleygate) which was first made public on 30 September 2006, I have chosen to also explore the coverage on two others scandals, the ‘Clinton-Lewinsky Sex Scandal’ (Monicagate) and ‘CIA Leak Scandal” (Plamagate) which broke on 17 January 1998 and 14 July 2003 respectively. As some of these scandals trailed over to the next year, there were countless articles written about them. As a result, for all three scandals, I limited the analysis to three articles which were written at different stages of the story from the newspapers The Washington Post, The New York Times and USA Today. To make it possible for comparison, I attempted to find similar dated articles from all three sources. While analyzing the articles, I considered the layout, use of quotations, clarity, language, published date and of course, content. As The Washington Post is most likely the more prominent newspaper out of the three, I would expect this paper to contain the most coverage with extensive detail. However, as USA Today has a reputation for colourful graphics as well as raking in the highest circulation numbers, I suspect the articles by this paper would connect more with the reader, especially since the topic is on scandals. The first article published by The Washington Post on Monicagate was on 21 January 1998 and for the first coverage on the scandal, the wordy lead was a confusing sentence. The following paragraphs did not resolve this confusion as no names were given but pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘his’ and ‘her’ were used repeatedly. This was not very encouraging for the reader as the first several paragraphs did not really explain what the story was. Luckily, the second half of the article was much comprehensive when it provided more background to the story such as the original case was focused on Paula Jones suing President Clinton for sexual harassment and involved Monica Lewinsky as investigators looked for other witnesses. Despite the initial uncertainty of the story, this part of the coverage was well written as it focused on the background story to the scandal, which the public often neglected as the scandal continued to brew. On the very first day, speculation and reports was already made about the relationship with Clinton, Lewinsky and Jordan and any possible crime for encouraging someone to lie under oath. The article also analyzed the close friendship between Clinton and Jordan and rationalized the possibility of Jordan coaching Lewinsky to lie with an alibi. While the text did summarize a timeline of the events, it was not very effective as the phrasing of the sentences made it difficult to comprehend easily. Eg. “Lewinsky said Jordan, according to this account, told her that. . .” When the article referred to Lewinsky’s age, it was also not very well conveyed as it wrote “a then-White House aide, 24 year old Monica”. This phrase suggests that she was 24 years old when she interned, however she was 21 when she was an intern and on the date the article was published,...
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