Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Theory of Relativity

I heard a story on WUIS this morning, attributed to the State Journal-Register, about Springfield mayor Tim Davlin’s daughter being in some legal trouble recently. As near as I can tell, the story is not in the online SJ-R* so no link to the story. A week or two ago we also had the story about Alderman Chuck Redpath’s brother getting in trouble with the law.

My question is, is this fair to the politician or the family member? It’s a long held tradition in the American media to trumpet the failings of the relatives of the powerful, but what’s the point? Are the people of fame diminished because of what a relative has done? The answer is mostly no but there are some exceptions.

I think there is a legitimate story when hypocrisy is exposed. For example, if I’m blasting parents for not raising their children properly (you know, “family values” and all that) and then my kid goes out and commits a crime, well a hypocrisy flag needs to be thrown. Obviously, there is also a story when the misdeeds of kin directly involve the person of note.

But beyond the above exceptions, why drag the relatives into it? It’s all so gossipy. And I think that’s what’s really behind these stories being treated as “news”. There is a market for dirty laundry. Those in the public spotlight become familiar and we want to know all the juicy details. It has nothing to do with the “public interest” and everything to do with what the public is interested in.

*Newspapers may contain opinions or language that may be considered inappropriate by some viewers. The newspapers linked to do not reflect the opinions of or Dave. The newspapers linked-to are not affiliated or associated with Dave and


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the article, yet. But, I did hear the story mentioned on the radio this morning.

To try and answer your question, my first thought is that the Redpath story deserved and needed to be told, despite the name. It concerned issues of public safety, including minors. That was a big story and I can't help but wonder what thought processes went into the SJR not reporting it more than they did. Linking the subject to a public official and other public servants also serves a purpose. That is, we get to ask what his family members knew, and when they knew it. And, if they knew their brother was a threat to children, how can we possibly trust them.

As for the Davlin story. Who really cares. It serves no purposes other than to emphasize that times are rough, even for the well connected.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I just noticed you're moderating comments. I should have realized when my Christmas greetig didn't get published. Forget it.

Rich Miller said...

The tag at the end was particularly appropriate, I thought.