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Don’t cry over spilt milk. Grab another glass of milk and pour its contents onto the spill, creating a larger mess. Continue spreading the puddle until it covers the entire floor, forcing anyone who walks into the room to slip. That’s how the media treats every fluid lead they can get their hands on.

From Tiger Woods to Mike Rice to Miley Cyrus and recently Richie Incognito, news outlets adopt young stories and raise them to be front page headlines.

Case one: In late November 2009, Tiger Woods drove his SUV into a fire hydrant. As a living sports legend, this developing story garnered plenty of speculation. When Woods declined to speak to police the two days following the incident, the “New York Post” teed off its coverage by plastering Woods on its front page.

As infidelity rumors were fueled by alleged mistresses and finally confirmed by Woods, this story ran its course. The “New York Post” featured Woods’ face on its front page for 20 consecutive days – a record for the publications. The previous longest streak was 19 days – held by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Woods may always be disputed as the second greatest golfer to Jack Nicklaus, but it is clear to one source, the “New York Post”, that there is no headliner greater than Woods, not even the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Case two: Former Rutgers University men’s basketball head coach Mike Rice was fired on April 3, 2013 after ESPN obtained footage of Rice verbally and physically harassing players.

Rice’s behavior was appalling, but his actions did not get him fired. ESPN got Rice fired. ESPN’s report was news to everyone except the administration at Rutgers University.

Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti was made aware of Rice’s improper treatment of players in December 2012. The University reprimanded Rice with a three game suspension without pay and additional $50,000 fine. Rutgers combated this issue, but could not fight the

massive coverage and negative press. ESPN overruled Rutgers University and ran Rice out of his job.

Case three: Miley Cyrus, the former Disney Channel Hannah Montana star, has been approaching a more mature form of entertainment since her childhood acting role. Anyone unaware of her progressive controversy and regressive humility took full notice at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

Cyrus shared the stage with Robin Thicke and performed a sexually charged dance to Thicke’s summer hit “Blurred Lines.”

The media, which generally overlooks sexualized dancing in music videos and male singer performances held a magnifying glass to Cyrus’ act. She was portrayed as a deviant, a poser and even a racist.

Cyrus did not create what the world now knows as “twerking.” She learned it from the many dancers before her. People have been dancing like that for a long time, but most people did not have an opinion until media manipulated the issue.

Case four: As cases one through three faded from relevance, news outlets found another story to latch onto. Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the team on October 28 and blamed bullying as the reason for his departure.

Martin claimed to be verbally tormented, and gained national sympathy after releasing a personal voicemail from Richie Incognito full of profanity, racial slurs and even a death threat. Incognito was immediately cast as the face of racism and bullying in the workplace.

Not that Incognito’s voicemail to Martin is in any way excusable, but this story has a subplot. In a Fox Sports interview of Incognito conducted by Jay Glazer, Incognito says, “And when all this stuff got going and swirling, and bullying got attached to it, and my name got attached to it, I just texted him (Martin) as a friend and was like, ‘What’s up with this, man?’ And he said, ‘It’s not coming from me. I haven’t said anything to anybody.’

Well if Martin didn’t say anything, then who did? Who is feeding the media quotes and insider knowledge? More importantly, who is the public developing opinion towards: the characters or the media’s screenwriting of their roles?

The media’s responsibility is to report and inform. In the process, it has been able to keep figures accountable. Mike Rice could still be tormenting young men if ESPN did not take action more serious than what Rutgers University deemed necessary.

But the media must be wary of it’s manipulative potential. Bias, along with knowledge, travels from the front page of a newspaper to the front of a reader’s mind. And readers: watch where your eyes wander. Don’t slip on the milk.

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