Thursday, July 7, 2011

Someone's Guilty - But Not Who You Think

We caught a small bit of flak yesterday from at least one reader for the comment we began Wednesday's commentary with - namely, that the Casey Anthony trial wasn't really "first-tier national news". We stand by our statement; it wasn't first-tier national news when it first happened, and that hasn't changed in the last three years.

Our disgust for some people with whom we have to share the broad label of "media" is nearly palpable, especially when it comes to this case. The ambulance chasing lawyer/wannabe television stars, who pursued this story for three years, certainly fall into the category of people in our business we can't stand.

To make it clear, we certainly don't condone what happened to little Caylee Anthony. A child died unexpectedly, and whatever the circumstances that led to that outcome, we feel sadness for the situation, and sympathy for those who loved and cared for a child who is now gone. We also don't think Casey Anthony is innocent - but then again, the jury didn't say she was innocent. They said she was not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, of the crimes she'd been charged with.

No matter how you slice it, this story never warranted the level of coverage it received. How many children, of all colors, ages, and economic classes each year go missing, and never receive the kind of media scrutiny this case did? Those children are no less worthy of attention - but very few child disappearances should draw the kind of media attention this one did.

There are so many other stories that deserve far more attention - something those in the media who know what journalism is about understand.

For example, the debt ceiling and budget battle continues in Washington, a battle whose outcome could decide the economic future of nearly everyone on Earth. Yet Republican "leaders" are still crying like babies, saying that millionaires and big business shouldn't have to share in the economic pain of fixing our economy. That one of our two major political parties is functionally insane? That's news.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal reinstated an order permanently striking down "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", a legal ruling which will affect every member of our Armed Services, around the world. Some of those service members will begin pulling out of Afghanistan this month. Furthermore, a bi-partisan group of Congressmembers - in a Congress where it's doubtful that members could agree to put out the fire if the building was burning - are calling for an even more rapid retreat from Afghanistan. All three of those things are also news.

Finally, if it's more sensational stuff about the news business our fellow media members were looking for, they need look no further than the cell-phone hacking scandal erupting from the Rupert Murdock-owned British publication, "News of The World". Hacking into the cell phone accounts of victims and families of Britain's worst terrorist attack ever - then attempting to defend your company's actions by using the shield of "journalism" is disgusting, depraved, sickening - and is definitely newsworthy.

We're all for stringing up individuals or groups in the court of public opinion who have proven their guilt by committing heinous acts beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, that level of proof is incredibly hard to achieve in most cases.

Sadly, in the Casey Anthony case, the only people who are unquestionably guilty are those members of the media who ignored many other valuable stories to totally focus on a criminal trial that didn't merit the attention it received. Character assassination and incompetence in journalism aren't offenses that can get a person locked up or strung up in America.

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