Legal contexts in reporting scandal in the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia

Authored by: Lyombe Eko

The routledge companion to media and scandal

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815387596
eBook ISBN: 9781351173001
Adobe ISBN:


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Scandals are context-specific media and public reactions, sometimes bordering on outrage, to legal offenses and moral shortcomings across a wide spectrum of political, social, cultural, business, financial, economic, media, and especially sexual spheres. The word “scandal” has a religious, metaphorical origin. The Latin word, scandalum, is derived from the Greek word, scandalon, which means “an obstacle” or “stumbling block.” Scandals cover moral and legal failings ranging from political corruption and abuse of power to illegal sexual harassment and unlawful sexual gratification. Though scandals were originally righteous indignation, or outrage at religious and moral offenses, in modern societies they represent public outrage at legal offenses or ethical breaches across a broad spectrum of human activity. Some scandals are the result of legal offenses to be sure, but most are expressions of opprobrium at moral shortcomings. Scandals are as old as humankind. They often involve matters that have a public dimension, involve the public interest, speak to the character of political leaders, and therefore attract media coverage. It is usually this coverage that elicits public outrage. The Watergate bugging scandal that engulfed the Nixon administration and the Clinton/Monica Lewinsky sex scandal were media and public reactions to alleged legal and moral offenses in the domains of politics and sexual morality (Dershowitz 1998). The parameters of specific regimes of freedom of speech and expression determine how the media report scandals.

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