Instead, the stories are all about the suspect: He lied about his whereabouts. He bought something suspicious. He is acting funny. He's leading a double life.
After the indictment, the focus turns to whether the suspect can win in the obstacle course called a courtroom. The legal experts provide commentary on the skill of the lawyers, as forensic showmanship trumps evidence. The focus isn't on guilt or innocence. It is: Will he get off?
The trial has become a spectator sport. Analysts talk about the defense attorney as if he is a star pitcher. A good cross examination is a home run. They marvel at his technique. They opine on who has a good offense and a good defense. You would never guess somebody had died.
Last year, I defended why the media would cover Laci Peterson's disappearance. If a story is of interest to readers and viewers, I said, the media should cover it. And I still believe that.
I simply do not understand how anyone but family and friends can still be interested in the trial, as TV covers it. The experts have taken a quest for justice and turned it into a game. A game show.
As the late great Jerry Nachman of MSNBC put it, the Peterson story is "crack for us in the business ... we can't stop ourselves."
Bill O'Reilly told Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth that every time he does Peterson, his ratings spike: "We do Laci Peterson every 15 minutes and see the numbers go up. It's a story that resonates with women particularly."
Someone should produce another remake of the classic 1928 Broadway hit "The Front Page" -- replacing Ben Hecht's and Charles MacArthur's ink-stained wretches with well-groomed cable TV commentators. But, this time, the movie can't be made without the essential supporting cast -- the viewers who change the channel if there is no non-news on the crime story of the day.
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