Is media to blame? A view on UT’s fraternity scandal

(Photo by Robert Norris)
All that remains of the PIKE house are a few markers that
reveal the fraternity was indeed there. Yet, to those not
specifically looking for them, they are easy to pass by.

“And to all the news media who have chosen to believe the falsehoods issued by the University of Tennessee, I say, shame on you,” said Alexander Broughton, 19, in a press release regarding his involvement in the incident at a fraternity house on the University of Tennessee’s campus.

“You need to go back to journalism school and take a good course in ethics,” Broughton added. The media world has gone overboard with news surrounding the night Broughton wound up in the UT Medical Center with a blood-alcohol level of 0.45, which is five times the legal limit and has the potential to be fatal. Local news outlets, such as the Knoxville News Sentinel, national outlets like Anderson Cooper and even Chinese based news outlet “NowNews” have all reported the story of Broughton’s hospitalization.

But why have sources all over the world picked up this story and deemed it reportable? Broughton is not Lindsey Lohan, a Hilton sister or even a celebrity, for that matter. So, why are news sources as far a way as China covering Broughton’s overdose? Shortly after his hospitalization, reports came out that Broughton and other underage boys were ingesting alarming amounts of wine at the UT’s Pi Kappa Alpha house.

Speculations arose, based on police reports and Broughton’s medical records, that the means for getting the wine into his system were not typical. But what is considered “not typical”? Let us just say that wine was speculated not to have gotten into Broughton’s system through his mouth and leave it at that. Once these reports were released, news outlets did not treat the story delicately, focusing primarily on the alternative means of Broughton’s wine intake.

The “News Sentinel” had access to police reports, which included a note from UT Police Sgt. Angela O’Neal saying that “there was a plastic bag with a light pink wine on the floor” and that “in front of the [rest room] door there was an empty plastic bag.” Further police reports even included photos, which showed blood around the toilets in the PKA bathroom.

Even medical reports showed Broughton having injuries around the general area on his body that is alleged to be the main point of entry for the wine. All signs seem to point to yes, Broughton did indeed partake in ingesting wine through atypical means. Then why is Broughton proclaiming “shame” and the need for media sources to take a course in ethics? Broughton did not get a chance to tell his side of the story before reports about him escalated.

People were already making assumptions on what occurred in the frat house that night based on what they were hearing from their main source of news. According to Broughton in a press release issued on Oct. 2, he drank “between 5 or 6 beers on an empty stomach” while participating in a game called “Tour de Franzia,” which involves ingesting copious amounts of Franzia, a boxed wine, in a limited time. He eventually lost consciousness, which led to his hospitalization.

So, a conflict has formed. Did the media make a huge mistake in releasing information to the public based only on information given by those in charge of investigating the matter, without the need to interview Broughton? Or, did they have enough information to provide the public with a “story?”

Maryville College student Jennifer Deaver, 19, supports the media’s release of information. “It was an interesting story, definitely unusual,” Deaver said. “It is media; their whole job as journalists is to report interesting stories. Why would they and their sources make something like this up without verifiable evidence?”

Deaver has a point. Why would the media create a fake fabrication about Broughton of that caliber without reason? They had medical and police reports with details leading straight back to Broughton getting the wine straight into his system through unnatural means. Deaver also said that it was not the news media that blew Broughton’s story out of proportion, but social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, that led to the story into getting over-sensationalized.

Reportedly, 11 percent of all people on the planet are using Facebook as a means of communication according to an article from Socialnomics. net. Given this, when supplied with a story of outlandish proportion, such as what came about out of Broughton’s hospitalization, is it not human nature for people to want to spread a local story like this around?As a result, the story would be discussed around the world once it piques the attentions of various people connected with the original source who brought the subject matter to their attention and they share it to their friends, which leads to a seemingly infinite chain of story spreading.

Also, sites like Facebook and Twitter give users the ability to write briefly on what they are sharing, on other people’s pages, thus adding a notion that people will automatically assume what is fact and what is fiction, which in turn can create and allow others to voice their own views and assumptions regarding the events of the story. Originally it would have been easy to tag Broughton as the one at fault, yet after his press release, blame seems to shift back to those that reported the incident in the first place. After interviewing Deaver, it seems like social media is also guilty. Let’s be bold and say all three are at fault. Social media has added the element of allowing people to be able to voice their views on the story by adding speculation with little truth in it, which makes an already horrible situation into a nightmare.

News media is at fault as well. However, they are not for the majority of reasons Broughton condemned them for in his press release, such as implying a possible idea that Broughton is homosexual. The new media did everything right, except for not getting his version of events before they released articles stating that he ingested the wine via the means implied by the reports received.

As for Broughton, he is the one ultimately at fault. Because of his choice to drink underage, he landed himself in the hospital nearly dead. The act of how his blood alcohol became 0.45 may indeed prove not to be through the means news media originally suggested. Either way, he made the mistake to drink underage and consume way too much, and its consequences are being felt in detrimental ways.

Christina Girgis, 24, a pre-law English major at UT, noted that none of the news media’s claims surprise her. “He brought this on himself.” Girgis said.“Frat guys always seem to be constantly trying to find new ways to get drunk or high.” Girgis’ view goes to show that Broughton may have a difficult time countering the claims against him and clearing his name.

Regardless, as Girgis claims, he “brought this on himself.” As a result, the world is watching and waiting for the inevitable updates sure to be released on the story, and the news media will be there to report it every step of the way. Well, they will be until someone else like Broughton takes the spotlight by not thinking their actions through,

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