A Journalist's Perspective of the Casey Anthony Case

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
I never really followed the Casey Anthony story much. I never sat for hours glued to the TV or the computer screen, watching the live feed of the trial or the “analysis” of morning talk-show hosts. I never pored over tabloids and newspapers, searching for every last gruesome detail. Sure, I had a general idea of what was going on, but the case never captivated me like it seemed to captivate most of America.

Despite the heart-wrenching story of the abused little girl and the blood-boiling accounts of the partying mother, I never considered it all that important from a journalist’s perspective. In fact, I think the story is, in several ways, detrimental to society. But more on that later.

First and foremost, the Casey Anthony story simply is not newsworthy. Yes, it’s horrible, Yes, it’s sad. Yes, it’s unfortunate enough to drive the collective America to tears on a regular basis. But that does not make it an important story. Gradethenews.org evaluates newsworthiness based on two criteria: whether it is “core or peripheral,” meaning whether it deals with topics that actually matter (core), as opposed to topics that are only interesting (peripheral), like celebrities and fluff and specific human-interest stories; and “whether the story is likely to have a direct and lasting (six months or more) informational impact on a wide audience (at least 10,000 people).” The Casey Anthony fulfilled neither requirement. Despite the emotional impact it had on the nation, it did not truly affect anybody outside of her town – in fact, it did not affect anybody outside of a small group of people close to Anthony. Did the investigation and trial result in any new legislation preventing child abuse or excessive parent partying? Did it change custody rules? Is there really any change affected at all? There is, actually possible legislation involving the reporting of deaths - but even that does not justify the extent to which the Anthony story was covered. Sad as it is, the Anthony story is not newsworthy.

But so what? Why should I condemn the media for covering this story, even if it is not newsworthy? It’s still interesting. It’s still sensational. People still want to watch it.

Yes, people still want to watch it. And that is where the media’s coverage of the Anthony story becomes more sinister, and more detrimental to the American public.

There’s a principle of journalism put forth by the Project for Excellence of Journalism that basically says, “Make the Important Interesting.” It means what it says – that the media should present important and relevant information in an understandable fashion. It doesn’t mean make the important entertaining, just interesting. But equally important is the corollary – don’t make the interesting important. The media does just this in the Anthony story. It blows up the story to the point where people only pay attention to it, therefore distracting the public from other important issues, like the debt crisis (which is very real), the elections (which certainly will affect a lot of people for a long time), and the health care debate (which do the same). And this, this aspect of the Anthony trial is what is so dangerous and disconcerting to me. Never mind the media assassination and other distortions that actually made the not-guilty verdict so surprising. The whole story takes the public’s attention away from important issues and puts it on things that, in the long run, won’t matter at all.

Granted – many of the top news organizations aren’t placing full emphasis on the story. It is, after all, mostly tabloids and other pop culture organizations. But the story is still there, right next to or placed above more important issues. It still looms in the mind of the American public when it really shouldn’t. This is a warning to the media not to get too involved in the story, but also a warning to the public not to do the same.

Sad and horrifying as the story is, there are really more important things to worry about.





Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

CarrieAnn13 said...
Jul. 25, 2011 at 10:26 pm
Good opinion article!  I don't completely agree with your opinion, but that's really irrelevant.  It's a good piece of writing. :)
 
LadyJaneGrey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm
Thank you! 
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback