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Airing One’s Dirty Laundry in Public | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A June 23, 2011 photo shows Paula Broadwell (2nd L) watching as General David Petraeus (R) and his wife Holly Petraeus (3rd L) arrive for a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Petraeus’ nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN)

I was in New York several months ago where I found America in the grip of two storms: Hurricane Sandy that ravaged the country’s east coast and the media storm whirling around the relationship between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell. The press was reveling in this news only to completely lose their minds when a second woman appeared on the scene, a beautiful woman of Lebanese descent named Jill Kelly—maiden name Gilberte Khawam—married to an American surgeon.

It got to the point that we would rise every day to new information about Petraeus, Broadwell, and Khawam, as well as their respective spouses. Every day we were greeted with images of Miss Broadwell, not to mention information about her qualifications, hobbies, favorite foods and workout routine. There were also pictures of Mrs. Kelly leaving her house, returning to her house, opening the car door, closing the car door. Then the big scoop: pictures of Jill Kelly’s twin sister, and information that they had visited a psychiatrist, not to mention information about her mortgage and home improvement, as well as the history of the Khawam family before they immigrated to America.

And then suddenly silence. It is as if the world has forgotten that Petraeus was the most senior US General in charge of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. While we have not heard anything about Mrs. Kelly and her twin sister and their financial and psychological problems. The press completely stripped the bones of their prey and went looking for new victims.

There are certain things that I do not like—in every sense of the word—about journalism or the press. I am embarrassed about the predatory nature of the media. Here I am talking about the photographers who spend their lives chasing after people who only want to be left alone; the editors that choose the most lurid news headlines; and the journalists who rejoice at the pain of others. I am talking about the newspapers that live off scandal and insults and standing before the courts.

Part of this profession is based on harming others, destroying their privacy and uncovering all their secrets. This is the part of journalism that I have always been embarrassed of since I entered this beautiful profession. It is wonderful to work in this field, but just as in every profession, there are those who give it a bad name. Just as some doctors trade human organs or some engineers construct buildings that are doomed to collapse; there are some journalists who love nothing more than to air other people’s dirty laundry in public.