Friday, January 04, 2008

Your yellow press at work

On the CBS News website, the top headlines include storms in California, Britney's latest breakdown, the Labor Department monthly jobs report and this: Accused Clinton Neighbor Admits Affairs.

The story is about one Carlos Perez-Olivo, a man in New York who is accused of killing his wife over a year ago. Prosecutors in the case released evidence of Perez's infidelity without comment, though the implication that it might be motive is clear. The story is a local crime with no national significance, but there are enough interesting elements in the story that it might have made the back pages of some larger papers on a slow news week. The only connection to the Clintons is that the Perezes lived near them. That is enough. Not only is the Clinton connection mentioned in the headline, the first sentence of the story makes it clear that the only reason the national news media care is because that connection.
The neighbor of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton who is accused of murdering his wife admitted to police he had a 10-year affair with another woman and had sent her flowers two days before his wife was shot.

The story that CBS ran is off of the Associated Press wire. The AP sent the story out with a less sensational headline: New Details in Death of Clinton Neighbor. Apparently the temptation to use "Clinton" and "Affair" in the same headline was more than the CBS web editor could resist. The Poughkeepsie Journal also ran the AP story and succumbed to the same temptation: Clinton neighbor accused of killing wife admits affair. United Press International also mentioned the Clinton connection in the headline to a story on Perez, but never mentions their names in the body of the story.

A Google News search produced two dozen stories over the last month that mentioned the Clinton connection, almost always in the headline. The Clintons have nothing to do with the murder of Mrs. Perez and nothing to do with Mr. Perez's affairs. It's the worst sort of distortion and sensationalism. Should we frame every crime in Manhattan as happening to or by a neighbor of Donald Trump? We deserve better.

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