A-Rod's indiscretion has no place on front page

Denver dailies wisely shun lurid tale

June 16, 2007

by David Kopel

Next week, the New York Yankees will play the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The average Colorado baseball fan may not know something about Yankees superstar player Alex Rodriguez that most New Yorkers - even those who aren't baseball fans - do know. And that's good.

As explained in the June 11 New York Observer, there has long been an unwritten rule that sports journalists do not write about the private peccadilloes of athletes.

There are exceptions - such as if the athlete is charged with a crime, or if his off-field affairs appear to be affecting his on-field play.

But on May 30, The New York Postbroke a story that broke the rules. The tabloid Daily Newsquickly followed suit; the papers published multiple cover stories about Rodriguez, who is married, being seen in a Toronto hotel with a stripper.

In the Denver dailies, though, there was nary a word about the affair of one of the most famous players in professional sports. The only exceptions were a couple snide sentences in Jim Armstrong's columns for The Denver Post(June 3 & 7).

The Denver papers did the right thing. It would have been even better if Armstrong's editor had used his red pencil.

One could argue that the story is relevant to Rodriguez as a player - since he breaks the unwritten rules on the field, too. During the Yankees series in Toronto, he yelled to distract a Toronto infielder from catching a pop fly. Even Yankees manager Joe Torre admitted that "A-Rod" was out of line.

Even so, newspapers have a responsibility to their communities. One part of that responsibility is not demeaning public discourse. Salacious stories about athletes sell more papers to a low-end subset of the reading public, but more profits do not excuse the further degradation of our culture. The problem is even worse when papers such as The New York Postand Daily Newspublish titillating cover photos of strippers and other consorts of the rich and famous.

Newspaper cover photos obtrude into public space and thereby force themselves into the consciousness of pedestrians.

Fortunately, the Denver papers rarely follow the bad example of New York's Postand News, with salacious photos that are inappropriate for younger children and offensive to many adults.

In the Denver dailies, the most underreported angle of the illegal immigration debate is the effect of Colorado's 2006 immigration reforms. Back on April 13, the Denver Business Journalran an article, "Are state's immigration laws chasing away workers?" The answer was clearly "yes."

As the article detailed, the legislature's 2006 immigration reforms, particularly the requirement that many employers verify the legal status of a new hire, have led to a massive emigration of illegal aliens from Colorado. The change has been hard on employers that used to rely on low-cost illegal workers.

Colorado's new laws compete with Georgia's for being the toughest in the nation. But the citizens of other states, including Arizona, have applied the "think globally, act locally" principle and enacted tougher local laws against employment of illegal aliens. As a result, suggests National Review Online, the big business lobby is panicked about the prospect of rising labor costs. Hence the enormous establishment push to rush the bill through Congress. (Disclosure: I write occasionally for NRO.)

The Denver dailies have published many articles about the pro/con comments of Sen. Ken Salazar and Rep. Tom Tancredo, but the papers have missed a key part of the story: how the Colorado legislature helped change the status quo for employers of illegal aliens and thereby made the business establishment desperate for a countervailing federal law.

Post drama critic John Moore has a sharp eye for theater, but not for history. Reviewing a play about the 1950s, Moore noted the play's perspective that concerns about Communist spies were just a "Red Scare." He declared that in reality, "There was no boogey-man."

No monsters under beds, but there were indeed moral monsters, Americans who betrayed their nation to spy for the genocidal Soviet tyranny. The declassification of the Venona project, an Anglo- American program to intercept and attempt to decrypt Soviet cables in the 1940s, reveals that the Soviets had hundreds of well-organized American agents. Among them was Julius Rosenberg, who helped Stalin steal the secret of the atomic bomb.

My new Issue Paper, Media Errors in Coverage of Boulder High School: Falsehoods, Distortions, and Omissions by Bill O'Reilly and Caplis & Silverman, is now available on the Independence Institute Web site (i2i.org). It catalogs media problems of which my previous column for the Rockycould only scratch the surface.

Dan Caplis has accepted my invitation to write a response, and that response will also be available on the Independence Institute Web site. So far, no word from O'Reilly on our offer to publish a response from him.    

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