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Media Portrayal

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During my junior year of college, I was nominated for a scholarship. The School of Journalism and Mass Communication had provided me with an opportunity to interview with a big market Denver television station. If I nailed the interview, I won the scholarship and would be rewarded with a summer internship.

This particular year, in Denver, the biggest story in the news was the Kobe Bryant trial. In retrospect, I should have anticipated this question, even prepared for it. But I am a man who thrives on winging it, off the cuff. The panel asked me what I thought of the case.

At the time, the media (well beyond this station) were frying up Kobe, burning the plaintiff and serving a hungry audience. Especially in Colorado.

I forget my entire soliloquy. But, I recall specifically saying the media should be careful. Nostradamus am I. I thought the media were jumping the gun and acting as if Kobe were guilty until proven innocent. After months in the headlines as being accused of rape, the one or two day headline of acquittal never seems a fair balance.

Today I read this on ESPN:

“The People’s Champ”

Jan 8 – Kobe Bryant has the ‘it’ factor on the court, he might be the best single player in the NBA. But having `it’, you also gotta have a little bit of a personality, a little bit of humility and have a little more than being a great basketball player,” Merritt said on a program on NPR.

“For Kobe, even being a great basketball player, I think his personality doesn’t necessarily allow him to be a global icon in the way that LeBron James can.”

“LeBron is a people’s champion, kind of an (Muhammed) Ali-type figure. To really be a true global icon, you need that.” — Akron Beacon-Journal

Merritt who? NPR has Kobe vs. ‘Bron experts?

People have forgotten about the pre-trial Kobe, the Kobe of yore. He was once America’s high school hero. Ali-typical; he was winning championships with the (then) Diesel. That relationship fell apart like General Hospital. That was Kobe I. The rape accusation was Kobe II. And now he has no personality?

What do the media really expect from him? Smiles? A tender embrace? Maybe it is the tattoo. Maybe Kobe is too street now. Because if you look at what he does, he is the unquestioned champion of the hardwood at this point in time. He battled back from knee surgery to take the Suns to seven games last year. The Lakers are 4th in the ESPN Power Ranking. They just beat the Mavs to snap Dallas’s 13-game win streak.

And I am no Lakers fan. I am a Celts fan. I am not saying the Lakers are championship contenders. BUT… I am saying any day, especially in the playoffs, there is no player I would rather have on my team and no opponent I would fear more than Kobe Bryant. Maybe that will change in the next few years, but not tomorrow.

Today’s news holds the power of portrayal. It has a nice little gimmick: make everyone think what we think because we tell them that we only show them what they want to think about. Who is Merritt? It doesn’t matter. He is reporting based on an idea that he clearly identifies within the American mainstream media. People don’t like Kobe anymore. Why?

Who else can be corrupted? Who can be made a sinner and who can become a saint? Saddam?

What weight can be affixed to measure the crushing blows of a negative media campaign? And when does a news story become so engrained in the psyche that it may classify as propaganda?

There is a lot to be learned from reading, watching, and listening to the news– more to learn between the lines. The ramifications of media campaigns are immeasurable. Information warfare is the future, and we will be able to say we tested it on our own citizens.


Written by Miles

January 9, 2007 at 10:05 am

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