When the news of the Erin Andrews peephole video first broke, it was exclusively a web phenomenon gobbled up by the sites that made her a celebrity in the first place. As it grew, it was inevitable that traditional media outlets would jump on it as well. What wasn't inevitable, however, is that they'd be so much more comfortable with sharing the video's contents with their audiences.
The New York Post splashed a topless shot of Andrews on their front page next to a headline screaming "Peephole Outrage," and added an online gallery filled with screengrabs from the offending video. Their partners in Murdoch-land from Fox News spent a good portion of the morning showing clips from the video on "Fox and Friends." The CBS "Early Show" also aired footage from the tapes during their Tuesday morning broadcast.
On "Fox and Friends," words like disgusting and outrageous were thrown around, as was an admonition that you shouldn't be clicking around the internet to find the video for yourself.
Well, of course not, because then you wouldn't be watching Fox News, which would seem to be the only goal behind showing the videotapes in the first place. It's not illuminating the story, which is five days old at this point, and they offer no information that hasn't been readily available to anyone with a browser. The only thing being done is exposing the images to a wider audience than they'd ever find by people poking around the internet. That's a funny way to handle something termed disgusting.
In light of these outlets' questionable judgments, we're wondering a couple of things. Did ESPN and Andrews' attorney send a copy of their letters threatening legal action to the networks and newspapers, or is that just for lowly bloggers? The same lowly bloggers who have avoided those pictures since Friday because they are in such poor taste and, quite possibly, illegally obtained in the first place.
We're also curious to see the response of the Post's irascible media watchdog Phil Mushnick. Mushnick, who is quick to point out the moral and ethical failings of all around him, will have little credibility left if he doesn't take his employers to task for their editorial decision. He might not have a job if he does go through with that course of action, though, so it should be interesting indeed to see his next column.
Whatever the answers to those questions, there's no doubt that it was the wrong choice to show these videos and images. It's all well and good that their existence was lamented, but, as they say, a picture's worth a thousand words.