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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

VIEW FROM AMERICA: Tide of Muck Rises in Sea Of U.S. News




We have been drowned these past couple of weeks in a sea of seamy detail masquerading as news. This is no longer terribly newsworthy. And that is the worst of it.


CBS' "60 Minutes" aired a tape of Dr. Jack Kevorkian putting to death a man who wanted to commit suicide. Representative Mary Bono, told TV Guide of Sonny Bono's addiction to prescription painkillers, which she blames in part for his skiing death last winter - a death that seems to have brought a measure of relief to his widow, who also complained about Bono's spells of anger and depression during a difficult, 12-year marriage. We've heard Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr vow to ABC News' Diane Sawyer that he has been faithful to his wife, Alice (as if anyone expected a different answer on national TV).


We've read now that Chelsea Clinton, the president's daughter - from whom the mainstream media has kept a respectful distance - not only is suffering from the humiliation of her father's chronicled infidelity, but from stress due to the breakup of her first college romance. This last tidbit came courtesy of The New York Post, a bridge between the supermarket tabloids and the mainstream media. Thus was the zone of privacy the Clintons had drawn successfully around their daughter for the entire time they've been in public life shattered.


No one can soberly argue we are better off for it.


That is, after all, what the media is supposed to do: get information out that the public is better off knowing than not knowing.


Often the information makes us uncomfortable, angry and disgusted or reflects badly on famous, powerful people or on exalted figures from the past. And often ordinary people are caught in the maelstrom, if they are unfortunate enough to be victims of a natural disaster, a shooting spree, a plane crash or some other calamity.


There was no reason at all for Sawyer to ask Starr about his sex life. It has nothing to do with the serious complaints against him, which involve political bias and ethical lapses.


Of course, there are partisans who relish the idea of rough justice for the man who's come to be known as the nation's sex policeman. In fact, there is no parallel here to President Clinton: Clinton was questioned about sex in a lawsuit charging him with work-related sexual misconduct. The judge allowed it because his relationships with other women on the job could be relevant.


Starr's probe of the subsequent Monica Lewinsky mess has been overzealous, unprofessional and lacking in judgment. That doesn't make his bedroom habits fair game. Starr should have said so. Instead, he turned the question into another fortuitous platform from which to declare his own purity.


Indeed, it's getting harder and harder to tell where the probing ends and the publicity stunts begin. CBS saw news value in airing Kevorkian, but surely it knew he was staging a publicity stunt.


Only a sudden outbreak of common sense can stop this dreadful expose of things that should remain unexposed. Mary Bono got it right, the second time, when she said she regretted answering so honestly about her husband's death.


Sadly enough, a silence of the sources might be the only thing that saves contemporary journalism from itself.


Marie Cocco is a columnist for Newsday.