Sunday, December 7, 2008

Trials and Tribulations of Covering the OJ Simpson Trial

Is the information in a given article accurate?

The information in the article about OJ Simpson's trial is accurate according to court records. However, the information is undeniably biased. Simpson is receiving a lot of media coverage for a crime that wouldn't normally be covered at the national level if it were committed by an average citizen. His previous trial is brought up many times as well.

Is there missing context that might undermine the premise of a given article or television segment?

I don't believe there is context missing, but rather content that was included that should have been omitted. Covering a story on OJ Simpson is difficult because the memories of his infamous murder trial in which he was acquitted is fresh in the minds of everyone. Popular thought is that he should have been convicted of murder. Years later, Simpson is being tried on different and unrelated charges. His past charges should not be brought up to influence the vote of the jury. On the other hand, it was a significant trial and should not be entirely excluded when the media is covering this new story. Even before his trial, the media was painting Simpson as criminal. Although many believe that to be true, they should not let their personal opinion influence other readers.

Which experts are quoted--and, in turn, who isn't allowed to give their opinion what does this leave out?

The article appears to be rather fair and well balanced. There are quotes from Judge Glass who sentenced him, OJ's lawyer, Yale Galanter, and Simpson himself from the trial. Even though OJ's side of the story appeared to be well represented, the quotes chosen from him and his lawyer were not terribly strong. The lawyer was quoted as saying, "It could have been a lot worse.." and went on to say that they were expecting life and were grateful for the 9 year minimum. Coming from his lawyer, this already paints Simpson as guilty. Quotes from Simpson from the court room describe him as being naive by repeatedly saying he was sorry and that he was not aware that he was doing anything wrong while committing the crime. Judge Glass was quoted scolding Simpson for his "stupidity and arrogance" before sentencing him. Judge Glass was also quoted as saying that Simpson's previous murder trial did not influence her or the jury's decision at all. However, that trial was still referenced to repeatedly in that one article, proving that the media does give it much attention and it was difficult for Simpson to ever get a fair trial. Quotes from all sides of the story are included, however, the quotes chosen sensationalized the story because it was a celebrity and did not give a fair portrayal.

When TV news shows (or newspaper/internet editorials) feature a point/counterpoint debate, what political spectrum is offered?

Featuring a counter debate allows the viewer/reader to see the full spectrum and not focus in on one side that is being offered. The media tends to be harsh when judging OJ Simpson. Although he was convicted of being guilty, he deserves a fair and un-biased trial as much as any other man convicted of a crime. Seeing counterpoints may help the reader to understand that.

Is the selected media simply reinforcing the status quo on a given topic, even though there may be no reason to assume that it is correct?

Certainly the "status quo" for OJ Simpson is that he is a celebrity who was acquitted for a crime that many believe he committed and now he is in trouble with the law yet again. Simpson was acquitted for his last trial and although most of the country believes he was guilty of murder, he wasn't, and there is no going back to fix that. Therefore, his previous trial should not impact his recent one.

What are the consequences of not having balanced coverage in the media -

In this case, not having balanced and fair media coverage could have influenced the sentencing of a man's trial. The amount of evidence against Simpson was overwhelming and therefore we can only hope that he was sentenced fairly. The same problem occurs everytime a high profiled figure is on trial and the media needs to know how to cover the story accurately and balanced and not to let popular opinion influence their coverage.

No comments: