When public officials find themselves on the wrong side of the law, it virtually always finds its way into the media. Even if the accused is ultimately found innocent, public perception is a powerful tool that brands a person with the allegations for a long time. So where does the media's responsibility begin and end when someone who is in the public spotlight is charged with a crime?
We ask this question because there seems to be a lack of consistency in the media's coverage of such happenings. Leaving names out of it, we've seen two arrests splashed all over the media in recent time; one was the child of a local elected official and the other is a local attorney with significant political connections.
Both of these arrests, which were DWI related, were covered incessantly by the media. The former lead to accusations of favoritism and cover-ups, FOIL requests and more coverage.
But the recent DWI arrest of the former Chairman of the Niagara County Legislature and current school administrator for the North Tonawanda School District, who is clearly well-connected politically, has not garnered one iota of coverage from the same media outlets that persecuted the hell out of the two prior individuals. How can this be?
We can all come up with our own conspiracy theories, so I'll throw mine out: the two aforementioned cases involved prominent Republicans. The latest case involves a Democrat. The local media has clearly defined themselves as left-leaning, which of course is no surprise, but where is the line drawn? Is it now okay to devote barrels of ink to a story but completely whitewash a virtually identical situation?
Nobody is claiming that all media outlets should be fair & balanced 100% of the time, but I don't think a little consistency is too much to ask for.