The Character Question
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the culture of scandal helps remind us that even superstars -- NBA
basketball players, UCLA football players, A-list Hollywood actors,
presidents of the United States -- have human failings. Perhaps
the public fall of our gods will lead us toward a more understanding,
forgiving culture. But Tannen is not so sure.
emphasis on scandal has a corrosive effect on the human spirit,"
she says. "We are continually surrounded by cynicism and an atmosphere
of contention. It's pervasive in politics, it has spilled over to
the press and the average person takes literally what the journalists
are writing. It has become demoralizing for the entire country."
what to do? Tannen proposes, among other remedies, replacing the
us-versus-them, two-sides-to-the-story news slant with a focus on
a diversity of views. Instead of a Democrat and a Republican battling
it out on a news show, how about three or four experts, including
who feels the culture of scandal is especially harmful to children,
suggests that the press expend some of its energy on exploring other
aspects of American life -- the life of the committed welfare worker
is as important, he says, as that of the bribe-taking congressman.
And he believes we should disengage from the world of superstar
role models and seek a perspective on the kind of work that is truly
think you should be your own role model, conform to what you think
you should be," Plate says. "But if I had to choose my role models,
I'd choose some of these UCLA professors, these geneticists and
doctors and social scientists who are quietly transforming the world
without being on CNN, without being quoted on the front page of
The New York Times. I'll choose them, not someone who can dunk a