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From Serious to Sensationalism: Zimmerman Trial Shows Where Journalism Has Gone Since O.J.

July 14, 2013

By Joe Concha

zimmojApproximately 11,000 black Americans have been murdered since Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman back in February of 2012.

And almost all—about 94 percent—were taken by members of their own race.

Yet here was America on a summer Saturday night in July, all glued to the cable news networks, watching the not-so-surprising not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman being announced to the world. Unlike the other 11,000, this murder was different, you see, because the media had succeeded in turning a self-declared Hispanic like Zimmerman into a guy whiter than Tim Tebow.

So this year’s Trial of the Century has mercifully ended. What will live on forever, however, is the new low some in the media reached in turning what was once just a local tragedy into a sensational frenzy. And in the process, the merger of tabloid journalism and hard news is now complete.

There was once a time when news organizations would barely cover a trial like Zimmerman’s. Don’t believe it? During a 2005 interview with PBS’s Frontline, here’s how Ted Koppel described the feeling among those at ABC’s Nightline regarding coverage another Trial of the Century:

Question: Do you remember how many shows you ran on the O.J. Simpson trial?

Koppel: “No, I don’t, but I do remember that we tried to avoid doing it too often, and we couldn’t avoid doing it almost once a week. What we would usually do is on a Thursday we would try to summarize everything that had happened in the trial up until then. It was impossible to ignore.”

Really? Once a week? Almost twenty years later, a government is overthrown in Egypt, and it couldn’t remotely budge the Zimmerman trial from dominating most of cable news since it began a few weeks ago. Could you image not hearing the name “Trayvon” for even ten minutes on MSNBC, FOX, CNN or HLN, let alone six whole days? And at last check, O.J. was one of the most famous (and beloved) people in the country for the better part of three decades (USC, Buffalo Bills, Monday Night Football, Hertz, and of course, the underrated and oft-injured Detective Nordberg of the epic Naked Gun trilogy), and not one, but two people were murdered in that case. All of that said, Koppel, as respected as they came in journalism, felt the trial was beneath hard journalism.

Koppel continues:

“The fascinating thing about it was that … every time we did O.J., the ratings went up ten percent. We could see it in the overnight ratings the next morning. And if we had done it every night, Lord knows what would have happened. But we thought once a week was more than enough.” Read the rest of the story at Mediaite.

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2 Comments
  1. Honey_D2 permalink

    Where did you read “approximately 11,000 black people have been murdered in the U.S. since young Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in February 2012.” Can you site your source? I been researching on the web and the only sites I found stating that claim were rightwing blogs. Nothing for a legitimate news source. that is why I would like to know where you read that so I can see for myself and not pass on information that is not true.

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