I am both appalled and amazed at how televised trials have become sporting events. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I was drawn into watching the Casey Anthony trial. I’m actually watching live coverage as I type this. The judge and the attorneys are conducting themselves in a serious and dignified manner. A woman’s life hangs in the balance. A child has died. All parties seem to understand the gravity of the situation. All parties except the TV commentators. They seem to believe this is the NFL or a rerun of Deal or No Deal.
In the early days of CourtTV, before the race for ratings turned it into TruTV, it covered trials with dignity. The commentators informed viewers of the intricacies of the law. They explained the reasons behind the methods used on both sides of the aisle. It could be boring at times. That’s because real trials do not operate like the 30 minute condensed trial on Law & Order. Real trials are ponderous. They go on for weeks or months and aren’t ratings giants.
So what’s a network to do? The not so obvious answer is to turn the trial into a sporting event.
The commentators, we shall call ‘the cheerleaders’ because they do not deserve to be called commentators or news professionals. They shout and they incite. They turn practicing judges and lawyers into caricatures of themselves as they encourage them to guess odds on the outcomes of various parts of the trial.
They want to know, “What are the “odds” that Casey will take the stand?” Is Vegas taking odds on the trial.
Watch as HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell interviews and prompts the “fans”. Fans is her word, not mine. Watch this video and listen to the words while remembering that they are talking about a trial over the death of a child. There is excitement and glee in their demeanor. It’s like the movies showing a hanging in the wild west. I thought our society had matured.
Watching this circus reminded me of a movie from some years ago. Pay particular attention to the great Richard Dawson as the master of ceremonies and you will see a chilling similarity.
Our society is perilously close to “The Running Man”
Please take a moment and share your thoughts about media coverage today.
Are we pandering for ratings?
Where do we draw the line between news and entertainment?