I’m watching Howard Kurtz on Reliable Sources get worked up over the JonBenet media coverage. His basic premise seems to be that the coverage was out of control when it was clear pretty early that John Mark Karr was a kook.
To me, coverage was typical and maybe a little more warranted than some saturation-cover stories.
Here three examples of appropriate saturation coverage: 9/11, Katrina, the U.S. going to war. But TV news gives saturation coverage to just about every pretty white girl who gets kidnapped or killed, among other events that are less than world shaking.
In the case of JonBenet, it is a story that is already deeply implanted in our culture. It is the modern black Dahlia murder or the Lindbergh kidnapping. Any significant development in the story is major news. You can argue that JonBenet should never have become a major story to begin with, but that’s history. The fact is, now it is a major story.
The fact that John Mark Karr was named as a suspect is significant movement in the case. The story had legs because almost immediately, there were a number of questions about Karr’s obsession with the case and his ability to have actually committed it. There was plenty for the media to chew on. And people wanted to know.
Of all the non-major stories that have received major media coverage over the past several years, this one bothers me least.