The Media: Intrigue and Revulsion
The Lewinsky scandal was a newsworthy event, prompting an outburst of stories about the President, his private sexual liaisons, and the impeachment proceedings. While political scandal had, in the modern era, been a prominent subject for discussion among news outlets, both printed and visual, this scandal had an additional component. The Internet offered a new and unrestricted means by which the American public could acquire information about the ongoing scandal drama and, in many respects, it proved to be a revolutionary new tool in the conduct of scandal politics. It offered a further means by which the politicians in Washington, and the media in general, could attempt to sway the public to their respective messages and thereby shape public debate. The Internet, however, did not overshadow the more traditional means of information dispersal, and its availability was restricted at the time to a minority who had access to the appropriate computer technology.
The prospect of a further Clinton scandal offered the media an enticing opportunity, but also served up a problematic issue. The scandal inadvertently became a debate about more than obstruction of justice and perjury, and centered as much on sex and the private relationship conducted by Clinton. This broadened its appeal, but also made the content difficult to present without seeming to be prying into the private life of an individual. Moreover, questions were asked about how the President's private life impacted upon his public conduct, and whether the reporting of Starr's investigation was warranted and in the public interest. These proved difficult problems to resolve. The risk to any news organization of playing down the importance of the scandal was that it might allow competing news outlets to capture public attention, particularly as happened