Magazine article Editor & Publisher

In Praise of the Media's O.J. Simpson Case Coverage

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

In Praise of the Media's O.J. Simpson Case Coverage

Article excerpt

"There's No Way O.J. can get a fair trial."

"The media coverage of O.J. Simpson has been unfair and sensational."

"Why must the media broadcast every lurid, unsubstantiated allegation?"

This just taps the surface in the constant drumbeat of criticism directed at America's newspapers and television stations, since the most spectacular criminal case in this country's history burst into everybody's consciousness last June.

For several weeks now, the media has been the object of unprecedented criticism from a multitude of sources. Either the media are accused of making up facts to intentionally hurt O.J., or they are widely believed to be throwing out whatever ethics they might have in order to make as much money as possible out of this tragedy.

I submit that, by and large, the media in this country have done an outstanding job of covering the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, and the subsequent arrest of football hero and movie star O.J. Simpson.

With few exceptions (there was no bloody ski mask; Nicole Simpson did not telephone her mother at 11 o'clock the night of the murder), the responsible (i.e., non-tabloid) media in this country have covered this story accurately, fairly and comprehensively, faced with some of the most difficult, ultracompetitive situations reporters will ever encounter.

Yes, the coverage has often been excessive and seemingly never-ending, but one must keep in mind that O.J. Simpson is, arguably - with the possible exception of John Wilkes Booth - the most prominent figure in American history to be charged with murder.

More importantly, the media has used the O.J.- Simpson case to inform the public of important issues in modern society.

The traditional role of the press - to inform the people, so that they can make intelligent decisions about pressing social and political issues - continues to be performed admirably by a wide cross section of media institutions.

In recent months, thousands of pages of newsprint, and thousands of hours of air time, have been devoted to such issues as health care, Haiti, Bosnia and the crime bill.

The press has also kept the public informed of developments in the criminal case against O.J. Simpson. The fact that most Americans haven't the foggiest idea of why we're considering military action in Haiti, yet know every intimate detail of Brian (Kato) Kaelin's life, says more about the news reader than the news writer. …

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