05-14-2005, 05:04 PM #1Former Member
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- Aug 2003
JonBenet and Media Hunger
This is an interesting (plus nice and long) article from Brill's Content.
It goes on for about 18 pages and has info on how the media collected (and sometimes created) news for this case.
Brill's Content - 02-00-2000
By Katherine Rosman
Issue Date: February 2000
PERSONAL BACKUP HISTORY ARCHIVE:
Take a murder tale that has nothing to it except some alluring video of a little girl dolled up for a beauty contest. Add media hunger to fill the gap between O.J., Monica, and the Next Big Story.
What do you get? Lots of local media people cashing in on the ravenous appetite of national news outlets for a story that had only one problem: There was never any real news.
By Katherine Rosman
Issue Date: February 2000
On Tuesday, October 12, 1999, John Ashton, 52, grabbed a few ties and his reporter's notebook and zoomed the 30 miles west on U.S. 36 from his Denver apartment to the mountain hamlet of Boulder, Colorado. Rumors were flying that the grand jury might hand up an indictment in the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation, and Ashton needed to be there.
He arrived at the Justice Center, on the corner of Sixth Street and Canyon Avenue, at about 1 p.m. The area around the two-story building was already mobbed by reporters, satellite trucks, and camera crews. Ashton elbowed his way to the center of the pack, or "the belly of the beast," as he puts it. He took out his notepad and his pen and waited among the hordes of reporters from newspapers and television stations across the country.
He turned to his left and caught the glance of a similarly dressed man with a microphone in his hand. "Which TV station are you with?" the man asked. Ashton hesitated. "I'm not," he replied. "We're doing a TV movie on that JonBenét thing."
Ashton is not a reporter, but he was hired to play one on TV. The day before, he had got a call from his agent, who told the actor that he had been cast as a reporter covering the murder of the 6-year-old in CBS's rendition of Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, based on Lawrence Schiller's JonBenét book of the same name. Schiller, Ashton, and about nine other actors were peppered among the actual journalists. (Schiller is also directing the two-part TV drama, which is tentatively scheduled to air on CBS February 27 and March 1.)
The crowd waited, wondering when-if at all-an announcement about the jury's conclusions would be made. By 3:30, the reporters had begun to realize that, on this day, no announcement would be coming. So, for lack of anything else to shoot, the cameras swept the crowd, capturing the scene of the sea of reporters and actors.
"It was reporters doing reporting on reporters who are actors pretending to be reporters for an alleged documentary on something that may or may not have happened," says Ashton, laughing. "It was like a bunch of mirrors."
In the year of JonBenét's death, 804 children ages 12 and under were murdered in the United States, according to the FBI's 1996 Uniform Crime Report. Her killing should never have been more than a Denver-area story. In fact, "that JonBenét thing" might not ever have made it to the national stage if not for timing. The 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant died during the slowest news week of the year-the days between Christmas and the New Year, when most businesses and the federal government are in low gear.
Then, for a while, JonBenét stayed in the news because of the now-ubiquitous pageant videos and glossy pictures: JonBenét as Rockette, JonBenét as cowgirl, JonBenét as glam girl, JonBenét as feather-clad temptress. With the end of its beloved Simpson epic on the horizon, the All-O.J.-All-The-Time media machine seized upon the eerie but captivating photos of the child pinup and manufactured its next "celebrity" murder trial.
Arguably, between September 1997, when Newsweek and Vanity Fair published the full text of a ransom note found at the murder scene, and October 13, 1999, when a grand jury announced it would hand up no indictments, there have been no significant developments.
But why let the absence of information get in the way of a good story? From January 1, 1997, until November 19, 1999, 20/20, 48 Hours, Hard Copy, American Journal, Dateline NBC, Entertainment Tonight, Extra, the weekend edition of Extra, and Inside Edition aired a total of 438 JonBenét Ramsey segments, according to NewsTV Reports, a Kansas-based auditor of television newsmagazines. Geraldo Rivera-on both CNBC's Rivera Live and the defunct Geraldo Rivera Show-has featured no fewer than 195 JonBenét-related segments. Larry King Live has devoted at least 44 segments to JonBenét.
Meanwhile, Newsweek has run about 30 JonBenét-related items and stories; Time has published about 25. Since April 1997, the Globe, The National Enquirer, the National Examiner, and the Star tabloids have published 124, 73, 51, and 38 JonBenét items respectively, according to the Joshua-7 website, a tabloid archive. JonBenét has been pure gold for the tabs. In the year before Ramsey's death, the Globe, for example, boasted a total paid circulation of its weekly editions exceeding 1 million seven different times. In the year following her death, that number jumped to 22. One can only imagine the circus that would ensue should anyone ever be brought to trial on this matter. Such a spectacle would make the O.J. trial look like a Department of Agriculture background briefing.
The blizzard of coverage continues to shock John and Patsy Ramsey, who sat down to discuss the press's obsession with their daughter's murder. "We were manufactured to be hated," asserts John Ramsey. "We were the media's product."
Dan Abrams, NBC News's legal correspondent, defends the media's coverage of the JonBenét murder case. Not only are unsolved murders fascinating in and of themselves, Abrams argues, but the Ramsey case includes substantive legal issues, most notably how a crime scene that is not immediately secured-as in this case-can forever taint an investigation. "There are intricacies of the legal system that can be learned" from this case, Abrams says. "I think there is a legitimate argument that the public has learned something from the coverage of JonBenét's murder."
Patricia Calhoun, the editor of Denver's weekly alternative paper the Westword, doesn't buy that. "What is the story," she asks, "except that it's a national springboard for a lot of people?" Even those who have leaped from that springboard, like Charlie Brennan of the Denver Rocky Mountain News, acknowledge that more than a national tragedy, the Ramsey tale is a career builder for journalists. "I understand that her death is no greater tragedy than the loss of any other child. And I've recognized that from the start," says Brennan, who also toiled as the collaborator on Schiller's Perfect Murder, Perfect Town. "But I also recognize that a lot of other people seem to think it's a much bigger tragedy, a much bigger deal, than all the other deaths." Ultimately, Brennan admits, "it has been the greatest opportunity that I have had in my career to carve out a name for myself."
05-14-2005, 05:25 PM #2Former Member
Originally Posted by tipper
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- Mar 2005