Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Tragedy's Lessons JonBenet Ramsey Case Puts Spotlight on News Media, Beauty Circuit

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Tragedy's Lessons JonBenet Ramsey Case Puts Spotlight on News Media, Beauty Circuit

Article excerpt

Lessons should be learned from tragedy, and there are lessons aplenty for our society from the cruel murder of JonBenet Ramsey. The six-year-old girl was assaulted and strangled in her Boulder, Colo., home Christmas night. The case, as yet unsolved, remains headline news.

But even though the outcome is unclear, we could benefit and improve the way we conduct our affairs by a thoughtful examination of the situation.

First there is the press. The manner in which it has conducted itself in its cutthroat, competitive coverage of the story won't make for a glorious chapter in the history of our profession. Hundreds of reporters from countries around the world have descended on the little university town of Boulder. Many have pushed and shoved and intruded on the Ramsey family and shocked Boulder residents with their aggressiveness. Particularly offensive have been reporters from sensational tabloids who are chasing a story replete with violence, sex, and intrigue - the stuff that these tabloids relish, and on which they prosper. Some news organizations have paid for information - for purloined pictures of the crime scene and pictures of the murdered child as a contestant in juvenile beauty competitions. The New York Times reported that ABC and CBS competed in their bids for a video taken several years ago of the interior of the Ramsey home. Movies and books and TV docudramas are in the works. The public has a right to know the facts about a murder, high-profile or not. The press has a right to report it and even to conduct its own investigation. But I think people are finding increasingly distasteful the kind of media circus that often surrounds dramatic news events. The people of Boulder are. According to The New York Times, they brand TV crews jousting for information "vultures" and have launched a boycott of at least one tabloid paper whose coverage they think is excessively vulgar. …

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