After New Times published highlights of a police report detailing the lurid goings-on at a postseason Phoenix Suns sex party ("After Midnight," June 15), most of the Valley's media outlets declined to cover the story, citing a litany of absurd excuses.
The only thing perhaps more absurd is what happened when they finally did cover it.
The Suns' Oliver Miller, who was accused of forcing a woman to have sex at the party, called a press conference July 13 to discuss the charges and "clear the air." Miller, reading haltingly from a prepared statement, said that he wanted to "go on public record to adamantly deny all accusations of wrongdoing. The reports are simply not true. . . . You can't believe everything you read in the media. This incident came from the media . . . but you've got to hear both sides of the story."
Trouble was, in most cases, local reports presented only Miller's side of the story.
Two of the three largest Valley TV stations rushed his quote on to their 5 and 6 p.m. news programs. Bill Denney, the dean (read: most wrinkled) of Arizona's TV sportscasters, reporting on Channel 12, accepted Miller's denial as ipso facto proof that Miller was innocent of all wrongdoing.
For his obsequious bleating on behalf of the Suns, Denney earns a Bill Close Award, which was named in honor of the former Channel 10 anchor fossil and presented periodically to TV types who go below and beside the call of duty. Denney, in fact, acts older than Bill Close.
Blaming New Times for smearing Miller's good name--and failing to note that the story was based on an official police document--Denney made it appear that Miller was not only denying that he had forced the woman at the party to have sex, but that he had engaged in sex at all.
Miller, Denney said solemnly, had come forward to "tell his side of the story" because "the written word was taking a toll on Miller and the Suns." Denney made no mention of the police report and, ignoring Miller's Journalism 101 admonition that both sides of every story must be told, Denney failed to call New Times for comment.
The talking heads at Channel 3 presented a similar sympathetic spin. In a four-minute report, Marty Velasco Hames and Cameron Harper did a fair job of summarizing the charges in the police report, including the allegation that Miller and the alleged victim "had intercourse." But Channel 3 added that Miller "denies all of it."
The next day, Arizona Republic columnist Norm Frauenheim also quoted Miller as denying "all accusations."
Apparently, channels 12 and 3 and the Republic do not think it is newsworthy that Miller, a married man, has publicly admitted having had extramarital sex.
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Only Channel 10 and the Phoenix Gazette got around to pointing out that Miller has admitted that he was at the party and had sex with the woman. Chances are, they were the only ones who bothered to ask.
Channel 10's report included video from a follow-up interview with Miller, in which he says that while he denies forcing sex on anyone, he does readily admit to two of "the accusations--he attended the party and "did have sex with [the woman]." He went on to apologize to his wife, family, the team and Suns fans for his indiscretion. The Gazette printed similar quotes, headlining its story, "Miller apologizes for actions at party."
For most viewers and readers of channels 12 and 3 and the Republic, however, the story wasn't an admission and apology, but a denial and angry refutation.
Neither Miller nor the Suns have responded to New Times' requests for interviews. In fact, the day before New Times broke the story, a reporter who hand-carried a copy of the police report to America West Arena was told by a security guard that nobody from New Times would be allowed in the building.