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August 11, 2004

SL Trib to press: "drop dead"

More, now, of our continuing coverage of the press covering the press's coverage... First Draft (a great new blog) points us to the unceremonious slapdown delivered by the Salt Lake Tribune to the media vultures who keep flogging the story of the guy who killed his wife. (The headline? "Go Away.") I tried to edit it down, but it's all so good. So here goes:

Police have determined that a young woman reported missing a couple of weeks ago was murdered. They say her husband did it. Even the suspect's family says he has confessed. He is in jail.

Hundreds of volunteers who were scouring the foothills and putting up posters have been thanked and sent home. Police are left to dig through the local landfill.

Incessant national media attention no longer serves any purpose.

Unlike the Elizabeth Smart case, there is no reason to hope that Lori Hacking will be spotted at a truck stop in North Platte, or a trailer park in Yakima, no point in spreading the all-points bulletin to everyone with a television set and a cell phone.

So, with all due respect and thanks, we have a simple message to the national media paratroops who have parachuted into Salt Lake City for another juicy story on a missing white woman:

Go away.

This is a local story, involving the pain of local people, investigated and prosecuted by local officials and thoroughly covered by the local media. Further reporting of this story for any other audience, beyond short updates, is a waste of videotape, ink and, most of all, time.

When this story is all over it might, in the hands of a perceptive writer, make a good magazine article. But it really appears no different than the sad tales of hundreds of other women who, each year, are killed by those they trusted the most.

For Fox News, MSNBC and, most disappointing of all, CNN - the Network of Record - to be spending so much time hashing, rehashing and, most of all, speculating on the gory details of this single case is an excellent example of what's wrong with the mass media today.

Every minute spent by Larry King or Fox News on Lori Hacking or Laci Peterson is a minute they don't spend on health care, education, environmental quality, national security, the economy or other real issues that should be the center of public attention, especially in an election year.

A nation full of people who know more about Scott Peterson's defense strategy than they do about Donald Rumsfeld's is not a nation that shows much ability to govern itself.

Local folks have a right and a duty to look over the shoulder of their criminal justice system as it does its job. Reporters from other media outlets can and should be available to backstop the locals whenever there is reason to believe that those closest to the story were seduced into joining either a lynch mob or a whitewash.

But for so much of the talent, time and resources of our worldwide media to be spent on a story of strictly local importance displays no courage and little imagination. Instead, it is a symptom of a perverse laziness on the part of both the media and its audience.

So it's time for the circus to pack up and leave town. Don't worry. If anything happens, we'll let you know.

Enough said... except to add one note from First Draft's commentary: "This says everything I could say about Lori Hacking and Laci Peterson. Why do I know how to spell their names? I've avoided news coverage of their killings because every single fucking day in my town young black men are shot to death on the street and we can't even get our own media to descend on the scene ... The only reason we know Laci Peterson and Lori Hacking is because they're white, pretty and dead. And that's revolting."

Posted by jay at August 11, 2004 05:48 PM | TrackBack
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