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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Over saturation in Ramsey Case

Published: September 8, 2006
Section: Opinions

The media seems to have no shame when it comes to covering the JonBenet Ramsey murder saga. For nearly a decade it has spent unprecedented time and money to document every minute detail of this botched investigation as countless more relevant and important stories have gone unreported.
In recent weeks there has been renewed coverage as John Mark Karr became the newest man to be presumed guilty of this crime. Nave prosecutors flew the man to the US from Thailand in the hopes that they had finally found the killer.
Did the media learn anything from the failings of its inflammatory coverage in the 90s, from its unfounded accusations against members of the Ramsey family? Far from it;

the press convicted Karr in the eyes of the public before he even got to the U.S.
Major networks, newspapers, and news services spent millions more to cover every inane detail of Karrs extradition to the US, going so far as to provide gastronomical analysis of the food he ate on the plane trip.
Its true that August is traditionally a slow news month, but one would think that with the war in Iraq, new revelations about the Bush administrations counter-terrorism measures, and an escalating conflict with Iran, the press could have found something more substantive to fill their pages and programs.
In all fairness, we should not blame the media alone;

it is the American people who flock in droves to coverage of this crime. The sad truth is that our nation cares more about this one tragically murdered child than international developments that might cost the lives of thousands.
While the media was fixated on Mr. Karr, over thirty American service members and many more Iraqi civilians were killed. Yet their deaths as a whole did not receive the attention and coverage of this latest fiasco in the Ramsey investigation.
The underlying truth is that the Ramsey story sold, and stories like it will always sell.
I am sure that the coming days will bring us the self-flagellation of a remorseful press lamenting their latest misdeeds, but in the future nothing will really change.
A white child is murdered in suburbia seems more relevant more powerful then the news and events of the world or the victimization of those with less appealing demographics.
It is an unfortunate and uncontestable fact that crimes victimizing white women receive far more coverage and attention than those affecting other groups. Some journalists have gone so far as to refer to the disparity as Missing White Woman Syndrome.
A number of socio-economic factors play a role in determining how much coverage a victim will get. Race and gender aside, a child missing in suburbia will receive more coverage than one in urban or rural areas and a wealthy murder victim will get a bigger headline than an impoverished one.
At the end of the day, the public seems content to say that they just care more about people like JonBenet, that their suffering is more important. It is not because of who they are, or what they accomplished;

rather, their lives are more important because of how they looked, where they lived, and/or how much money they had.
Let's just hope that for the moment the media returns its focus to those issues that truly have an impact on all of us.