Predictably, in the aftermath of yesterday’s surprising Casey Anthony ‘not guilty’ verdict, the media has immediately shifted into its self-examination phase as it does everytime a ridiculous story is given overly zealous coverage.
The premise of all this agonizing is the fantasy that the media will at some point only cover important stories.
This, of course, will never, and arguably has never, actually been the case.
But the media-at-large tends to substitute the notion they should be doing this for actually doing it. Which is something, I guess.
However, this exchange between George Stephanopoulos and HLN’s Nancy Grace from today’s Good Morning America, which went whole hog on the case, stood out.
GMA had the good fortune to book Grace as a regular contributor during the trial. I say good fortune, because to say Grace absolutely owned the coverage of this trial is to put it mildly. Her HLN ratings last month regularly dominated her time slot against heavy weights like FOX News, a stunning feat.
During the trial, a passionate Grace coined the term “tot mum” to describe Casey Anthony, last night breathlessly declared the “devil was dancing” over the innocent verdict. If the Casey Anthony trial made for compelling television (and the ratings suggest that for much of the country it did) it is largely due to Grace’s emotional, easily quotable, coverage.
From today’s GMA:
Stephanopoulos: “Do you feel like you lost?”
Grace: “Do I feel like I lost? Goodness no. I feel like who lost is Caylee.”
Do you feel like you lost? Even in the current media environment that strikes as a stunning question to ask a TV anchor whose job ostensibly was to cover a trial. Blockbuster ratings aside, how could Nancy Grace feel like she lost? She was not prosecuting Casey Anthony.
Except of course she was.
And for all intents and purposes that is now the job of most cable news anchors. They take a side on any given story and argue it. Cable news anchors are now essentially the prosecutors of defendants of the day’s news.
Even CNN is apparently ready to drop the pretext that they don’t have an opinion (something they tend to leave with their guests) in so far as they may be willing to call out guest for bullsh*t statements, a good and necessary move in the eyes of Jay Rosen.
If anything, what the Casey Anthony trial means for media is that it simply further solidified the Nancy Grace-ification of the media. Don’t think for one second TV execs and anchors everywhere didn’t see her ratings and immediately scramble to figure out how they could do the same. And they will. The only difference down the line will be less apologizing in the aftermath. Welcome to the new norm.
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