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Public Cites Commercial Motives of the Press

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Public Cites Commercial Motives of the Press

Article excerpt

Public cites commercial motives of the press

Times Mirror-sponsored poll shows 80% of respondents feel releasing the alleged Kennedy estate rape victim's name was a commercial decision

A substantial majority of the public disapproves of the media identifying the woman who has accused William Kennedy Smith of raping her at the Kennedy family estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

According to the latest survey for the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press' monthly News Interest Index, 70% of those surveyed disapproved of publishing or airing the alleged victim's name.

Further, almost half, 45%, feel the story has received too much attention. In fact, during the month when there was no strong news focus among the public, the most widely expressed view of the news was that the Kennedy story was overplayed, according to the report.

Fully 80% of respondents said they thought releasing the woman's name was a commercially motivated decision, while only 9% said the news organizations did it to show society does not attach shame to the victim of a rape.

Only 21% of those surveyed said they followed the Kennedy story very closely -- less than half of those who said it was overcovered -- but the story ranked third when respondents were asked in a follow-up question to name the single news story they had followed most closely in May.

"This suggests that while the audience for this story may be limited in size, it is an intensely interested one," according to the Times Mirror Center report.

One more word on the Kennedys: while the percentage of those who could identify Boris Yeltsin increased to 34% from 20% in June 1990, those numbers paled by comparison to the 75% who could identify William Kennedy Smith.

Public attention during the month, however, was focused more on President Bush's heart problems and the plight of the Kurds in Iraq, with 38% saying they followed the Bush story very closely and 36% following the Kurdish story very closely. In a follow-up question, the stories tied as those watched most closely during the past month, 22% for Bush and 23% for the Kurds.

President Bush's health brought to light more news about Vice President Quayle, and 26% of respondents said they followed the controversy over his qualifications for office very closely. …

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