Why is the Petraeus affair a scandal? OK, I understand why — “The scandal surrounding the decorated four-star Army general who once ran the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan involves questions of national security, politics and even the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead” — but it shouldn’t be!
Nieman Journalism Lab questions the way media handles sensation news stories – which is what the Petrareus affair is, when boiled down:
“News designer Mario Garcia noted that the story has almost all of the traditional attributes of newsworthiness, making the media swarm pretty predictable. Screenwriter and former reporter David Simon derided the futility and hypocrisy of journalists’ preoccupation with others’ sex lives…Reuters’ Jack Shafer, on the other hand, argued for the importance of sex scandal coverage as an entree for the public to more important issues.
The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald expressed alarm at the reach of U.S. government’s surveillance efforts, with Greenwald stating, “what is most disturbing about the whole Petraeus scandal is not the sexual activities that it revealed, but the wildly out-of-control government surveillance powers which enabled these revelations.”
Does the media know why it is covering Petraeus? Coverage seems to hinge on the possibility of national security breeches, which have yet to be proven, making any reporting of the affair a fear-mongering circus act.
Jack Shafer argues sex scandals are legitimate because they provoke an apathetic populace into learning about other issues: “Already the Petraeus scandal has schooled a naïve nation about proper email hygiene, the internal workings of the FBI, lax military discipline, computer privacy issues, and the loose handling of classified information. And this scandal has been in the wild for less than a week.” However, I believe the fault still rests with the media, for these other issues could easily be reported by journalists and discussed on air, as they are legitimate by themselves, without being tied and linked to a sex scandal.