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Stop the Sandusky Interview, NBC

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 11.35.41 AM


I was going to save this for tomorrow's column and actually may still have something to say about it after the segment in question airs in the morning. But in the desperate hope that somebody at NBC News might listen and put the brakes on what could very well be the biggest betrayal of its journalistic integrity since its repugnant and indefensible decision to air the Virginia Tech Killer's posthumous manifesto, I figure it's worth at least getting this into the ether.

You can't do this, NBC. You just can't do this.

Tomorrow morning on the already slowly imploding Today show, an interview with Penn State child rapist Jerry Sandusky will be aired, his first since his conviction. There would be necessary ethical questions about any decision to give a public forum to a convicted child rapist, but believe it or not this particular interview should be radioactive to any responsible news organization right off the bat. The reality, the one that NBC isn't publicizing in its lead-up to tomorrow, with good reason, is that NBC itself has nothing at all to do with Sandusky's "in his own words" statement to the public other than making the decision to air the segment. The interview wasn't shot by NBC and doesn't feature a network correspondent.

The Sandusky interview was actually shot by John Ziegler, notorious libertarian/conservative provocateur and peddler of all kinds of ridiculous conspiracy theories, for a documentary he's producing called "The Framing of Joe Paterno." The Sandusky interview will then be followed on the Today show by an interview with Ziegler himself in which, make no mistake, he'll rail against the very establishment press offering him a platform to air his horseshit. Ziegler believes the media, en masse, have railroaded good man Joe Paterno the same way they once railroaded Sarah Palin in an effort to get Barack Obama elected. And NBC, rather than doing its own work on a highly sensitive interview, will hand off all responsibility to somebody not only with an obvious, stated agenda but someone who has plenty to gain by thwarting the press itself and who therefore can't be trusted.

These days, the easiest way to get airtime or copy space with a mainstream news outlet is to openly criticize it or otherwise be an antagonistic presence. Coulter, Breitbart, Ziegler, all made careers out of punking the media, essentially being fiercely hostile toward them with the knowledge that the modern press is comically easy to subvert by playing on its fear of failing the objectivity test and by feeding its never-ending need to hand-wring and soul-search. Guys like Ziegler know that the press will giddily, stupidly open the door and invite the vampire in because it feels like not doing so would show the cowardice it's being charged with. They dare establishment journalism to give them a forum by accusing it of being hopelessly biased if it turns them down, and establishment journalism steps right up and takes the bait.

But it shouldn't. Definitely not this time.

NBC is going to air an interview with a convicted child rapist, one who by all accounts remains defiant and delusional; it's going to give airtime to a despicable monster, regardless of the lack of any real news value and the potential impact to the scores of victims still trying to put their lives back together; and it's going to relinquish the quality control that should at the very least be a necessity for such an interview, instead allowing the whole thing to be firmly in the hands of an arrogant hack without a specimen-cupful of journalistic integrity and a vendetta against the very people falling for his scam.

Again, you can't do this, NBC. Not if you have even the tiniest shred of decency or sense of ethics as a news organization.

Call this awfulness off.