Sunday, March 8, 2009

The O.J. Trial

On June 12, 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered. O. J. Simpson, Nicole’s ex-husband, was tried for the murder and acquitted, but it is still a common belief that Simpson committed the double murderer. The murder trail, the longest in California history, was a media event that contained all types of intrigue. The trial gathered attention because the Simpson’s marriage was bi-racial, Simpson was a former star in the National Football League, The defense team hired was all very high profile, there was alleged police misconduct, and the trail was televised daily.

Like the opening of a film The O. J. Simpson trail opened with a car chase before the actual trial began, only the chase was low-speed in a white Bronco, which stood out against the freeway and city streets. The chase aired live and was viewed by over 90 million people. The press not already reporting on the celebrity murder jumped on the story after the car chase, a moment that seemed to be stranger than fiction.

The trial started on January 25, 1995 and aired on Court TV. As the trial played out on television the press acted as translator to the readers who were watching. The average person had not seen the inner workings of the criminal justice system and during the trial California’s court system was being dissected in the news everyday. It was what might now be called a reality television show. There was also the looming question if having the camera in the courtroom changed the dynamic of the courtroom. This brought to the forefront the battle between the First and Sixth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Does the people’s right to know out way the defendants right to a fair trial. With the trail opening with a recording of Nicole Brown Simpson calling 911 fearing that Simpson would do her great bodily harm, Johnnie Cochran’s inspired quote, “if it doesn’t fit you must have acquit,” and the accusations of dirty cops the trial was very theatrical. When Simpson’s mug shot graced the cover of Time Magazine it was darkened and it seemed as if he had already been tried and convicted by the press before the trial had even gotten underway. This case and others like it create a problem in journalism and the rally cry that criminal cases a being tried by the media has gone up all across the country.

The journalism industry saw an economic boom during 1990s and fierce competition ensued between newspapers, magazines, and networks to hold the top spot in their markets. This battle did not take place through the pursuit of hirer quality journalism or the aggressive pursuit of more exclusive stories. It took place in the office through cost cutting and the idea to “do more with less.” The sensationalist story is one of the types of mediocre journalism that also shows the loosening ethics of the time. The profit growth that was seen during this time became the bottom line. Journalism as a whole suffered a great blow with the as readers lost confidence in journalists across the board. Even though most journalists were just fighting to keep their jobs. Stories like the O.J. Simpson Trial are just byproducts of the corporate take over of journalism spawned by deregulation.

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