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Psychological Tactics of the Media

The death by suicide of American mother Melinda Duckett has highlighted the increasingly intrusive and abusive nature of some members of the media. While scammers are often the target of so-called investigative journalists, and perhaps rightly so, in the past decade journalists appear to have dismissed the line between genuine newsworthy copy and outright voyeurism. And in the Duckett case, the media has inadvertently interfered with standard legal proceedings.

The sad case of Melinda Duckett involves the disappearance of her two-year-old son Trenton, who Duckett reported as having been snatched from his crib. Renowned CNN prosecutorial interviewer Nancy Grace utilized her characteristic aggressive style and demanded of Duckett: “Where were you? Why aren’t you telling us where you were on that day?” Defying her name, Grace was merciless, raising her voice and pounding the desk in front of her during the interview. The following day, Melinda Duckett shot herself.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Grace stated that Ms. Duckett’s death was: “an extremely sad development.” Given that Grace knew that the Duckett marriage had collapsed and both parties were enduring a messy divorce, and Melinda Duckett had recently been laid off work, one wonders just where these journalists will draw their line of personal integrity. Do they have one?

We only have to look back to 1997 at the tragic case of Diana, ex-wife of Prince Charles to see the overwhelmingly intrusive nature of the media in the life of public figures. Yes, being in the limelight does come at a price but surely that price doesn’t have to extend right into the very soul of the person concerned.

Whether or not Melinda Duckett was guilty or innocent, Nancy Grace and her ilk overstep the line between news reporting and invasion of personal privacy. In this case, Grace set herself up as prosecutor, judge, and jury. For whatever reason, Melinda Duckett was unable to bear the onslaught of this woman. Consequently, justice cannot be seen to be fully exacted in this sad case.

Yet, we the public, are not without blame in instances such as these. We who voraciously read the antics of the rich and famous, the poor and desperate, are unwittingly fueling the fires of the likes of Nancy Grace for the sake of ratings. While we continue to lap up the juicy tidbits supplied by the press hounds, our own personal boundaries are at risk of being bulldozed by the media.

After the death of Diana, the British press agreed to back off and allow her two sons to grieve in peace and live relatively normal lives. To a large extent, they have respected that request. Perhaps it is time for us to consider that the media serves us, not the other way around, and show our distaste for highly invasive reporting by both protesting to the publishers and, best of all, refusing to buy or watch their product. While we humans will always love gossip, we all need to be assured of some personal space and privacy when catastrophe knocks at our own door.

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