KDKA’s sensationalism misrepresents CMU

If “Sunday night at the movies has taken a curious twist,” then Tuesday night on TV news has taken a peculiar turn as well.

Local Pittsburgh news station KDKA featured a special five-minute “investigative report” last Tuesday on CMU’s recent campus “TBA” pornography screening. Frankly, college sexuality isn’t such big news that a television news station needs to whip up a sensationalist piece to cover it.

There’s nothing new about this sensationalism: The American media are obsessed with overblowing anything sexual, and broadcast journalism is the biggest offender; unfortunately, KDKA’s lack of investigation in their “investigative” reporting isn’t surprising. Instead, it’s all too common. Sensationalism erodes the quality of journalism, and that’s a serious problem. Now every Pittsburgher unlucky enough to watch the broadcast is misinformed; if that one five-minute segment was so severely botched, how are we supposed to judge the rest of KDKA’s broadcasts?

It was amusing to watch last Tuesday night’s report spiral out of control. More than a thousand students watched the porn at a time, the report said. No, investigative reporter Marty Griffin chimed in: more like 3000. Admittedly, 3000 was the number given to KDKA by a misinformed student at cmuTV, but did Mr. Griffin even bother to check the capacity of the auditorium, which is 445? Oh yes, Carnegie Mellon officials declined to give Mr. Griffin the name of the organization that showed the film, but any student they interview could have given him AB Films’ name — maybe even directed him to its office. Perhaps we were wrong in assuming that the point of investigative journalism was, well, to investigate.

“This is one of the posters advertising the XXX movie I found plastered all over campus,” Mr. Griffin also said in his report, holding up a yellow poster featuring two pirate women about to engage in sex. However, Femi Akintola, a student who contacted the station about the story, supplied him with the poster. Were the posters really plastered all over campus? Did you really “find” it? Hardly, Mr. Griffin. AB Chair Andrew Moore removed all of those specific posters approximately one week before the film aired. But these logistics weren’t important: The poster Mr. Griffin held was the perfect image to portray a sex-crazed campus at CMU.

Best of all, in a phone conversation with Mr. Moore regarding a possible follow-up piece, Mr. Griffin admitted the story was very “one-sided.” But we suppose “Parents pay for porn!” was too appealing a headline — such snarky alliteration! — to postpone for the sake of journalistic integrity.

KDKA’s coverage of this event at CMU was shamelessly sensationalist and devoid of even basic investigation or fact-checking. The story was solely intended to set middle-aged viewers’ neck hairs on end as they watched in the dark, wondering aloud to their spouses, “What is the youth of this nation coming to?”

Thanks for your concern, reactionist America. We’re doing just fine.