Mainstream Media Obsessed with Sex, Sex, Sex!

Cernig is outraged at the sex-obsessed American press.

I am now officially disgusted with America’s insular and navel-gazing punditry. En masse and on a bipartisan basis the media, commentators and bloggers have decided that the Edwards Affair story is more important than events in South Ossetia. What happened, folks, did your minds cloud over at contemplation of events beyond these hallowed shores?

Maybe someone can enlighten me as to why the story of yet another politician who ran as a Loyal Family Man but was unable twice to gain the highest of offfices being revealed as a lying hypocrite unable to keep it in his pants is remotely as newsworthy as a full-on war between one of the world’s great powers and a nation which is a vocal ally of the USA. Because I admit I’m utterly perplexed by the allocation of priorities here.

I almost wrote a variant of that post this morning, whilst looking for updates on the Georgia story and noting that the Edwards story dominated the front page of the Washington Post’s website.  I went to the NYT website, though, and saw that the Georgia story was well covered there and, lacking a hook, let it go.

While Cernig and I are generally on the opposite sides of issues, I respect his integrity so decided to give the story another looksee.  It turns out that, while there’s no doubt that the Edwards story is getting major play, the Russia-Georgia-South Ossetia story is getting far, far more.  Indeed, even the Olympics is getting more coverage than the Edwards story.

The screencap at the top right of this post is from Memeorandum.  As of this writing (6:37 Eastern Saturday evening) even the blogosphere has made Georgia the top focus [a marked contrast from 7:40 am, when, as Cernig’s link shows, the top two-thirds of the page was dominated by Edwards coverage].  I say “even” because it’s a relatively hard story to opine upon, in that almost every political blogger already knew who John Edwards is and understood the concepts of lying and adultery.  Conversely, most are catching up on the Russia-Georgia-South Ossetia story.

I went to Newseum, which archives the front pages of virtually every paper in the world, to get a broader sample of the mainstream papers.  I was pleasantly surprised.

The major national papers all gave more prominent treatment to the Russia-Georgia clash than Edwards.

The New York Times:

The Washington Post:

The Wall Street Journal:

Even the conservative Washington Times, which presumably has no love for Edwards, did so:

My hometown paper, the Anniston (Alabama) Star did, too:

Indeed, the only paper I checked that played the Edwards story first — and rightfully so — is the Charlotte Observer, the major paper in Edwards’ home state.

I tend not to watch much television news but I presume that the 24/7 coverage skewed towards the Edwards scandal.  But that’s, no pun intended, a sexier story.

I must admit, I’m surprised by this outcome.  The publishers of papers around the country chose to highlight a story that was very unlikely to sell papers over one that would.  Let’s face it, the average person is much more interested in celebrity sex scandals — and this one has plenty of good angles to it — and not than in foreign policy.  Much less conflicts over obscure secessionist areas.

Let’s face it, most Americans were only vaguely aware until yesterday that there’s a second place called Georgia.  I have my PhD with a specialization in national security policy and would only be somewhat more informed about this conflict than the man on the street if I hadn’t been surrounded for the past several months with smart people who study European politics for a living.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:


    This isn’t just sex. In short, domestic political scandal invariably outweighs a foreign war we’re not involved with, the run up to which has a rather complex storyline.

  2. James Joyner says:


    That’s what I’d have expected and I wouldn’t have been terribly upset by it. But, as the screencaps above demonstrate, it actually wasn’t the case this time, at least with the newspapers.

  3. I must confess, I have posted twice on Edwards and so far none on Georgia (although the second post was mostly to make fun of a CNN headline).

    I have been planning on posting on Georgia, but really had nothing intelligent to say off the cuff, and therefore am digesting information before posting. Even then, I must confess that my knowledge of South Ossetia is quite minimal, indeed despite my PhDedness and all that, I don’t think I had ever heard of the region prior to yesterday.

    However, I clearly know that the Georgia story is far more important than the Edwards one.

  4. Cernig says:

    James, when I wrote that post this morning, most of the front page of memeorandum was taken up by the Edwards story, as I linked in the post. I’m very gald to see that’s changed this evening.

    Regards, C

  5. James Joyner says:

    I wrote that post this morning, most of the front page of memeorandum was taken up by the Edwards story, as I linked in the post

    Yup. I should have made that clearer in the post. It took the blogs a while to catch up. But, as noted in the post and amplified by Steven Taylor’s comment, it’s hardly surprising that that’s the case.

    If I hadn’t been hearing a lot of professional discussion on the matter at the Atlantic Council over the past few months, I’d be in the same boat.

  6. Bill H says:

    OT, but I have to comment on your hometown. I had no idea you lived in Anniston. I was a contractor in Atlanta for many years and once performed a contract relining plating tanks (vats, not the Army weapons) at the Anniston Army Depot. Anniston may be in the most beautiful place in the entire world. The contract took over a year to complete, that is a huge plating facility, and I spent a lot of time there. The town and the people were just a tremendous delight.

    I have also been to races at the Talledega Speedway more than twenty times.

  7. Jorge Tschebotarjew says:

    Georgia-Ukraine-USA axle may backfire with the European Union. There is no interest at the present time in resuming the cold-war posture against the energy reach partner Russia, who is learning fast the benefits of being the largest and soon richest democratic State in Europe. The present day Russian is positioning itself as the fifth largest world economy by the year 2020, as it aims to become by then, full member of the European Union… Then there is an internal growing opposition to the present policies of all three mentioned States.
    Mr. Obama is aware of this.

  8. Bithead says:

    Yup. I should have made that clearer in the post. It took the blogs a while to catch up. But, as noted in the post and amplified by Steven Taylor’s comment, it’s hardly surprising that that’s the case.

    I begin to suspect a lot of this may be simply a matter of timing, vs the depth involved in each story.