Breaking News?

Why are certain networks so consumed with the JonBenet Ramsey case?

I had a charter flight to the San Diego area on Thursday. Because there’s currently no fuel available at Wickenburg Airport, I had to make a refueling stop at Yuma, AZ. It was 90+°F at Yuma Airport at 10 AM, so I waited inside for the fueler to finish and to pay my fuel bill.

The Sun Western Flyers FBO at Yuma has a small pilot lounge that included a television tuned into Fox News. They had some kind of breaking news graphic on the screen and it caught my attention. With a recently foiled terrorist plot to blow up airliners still fresh in my mind, I was concerned that something new had developed in the world of terrorism during my 90-minute flight to Yuma.

But no. It was just coverage, from the air, of John Mark Karr’s transportation from one point to another — possibly to court? I didn’t pay attention. I was amazed and completely disgusted that Fox News would have a helicopter with a cameraman follow the confessed killer’s motorcade down the road. As if this were an important news story.

(If you don’t know who John Karr is, you’re a very lucky person. But you really do need to come out of that cave once in a while.)

“Breaking news” coverage of the story was satirized in NPR’s Unger Report.

Since then — two days ago — I’ve been giving the media coverage of the Karr arrest a lot of thought. Don’t confuse that with any effort to get more information about it. I haven’t done a thing to look up the case other than what I did this morning to get the guy’s name spelled right. I don’t need to try. All I have to do is walk past a place with a television on and, if it’s tuned into Fox News — a surprising number of them are these days — I can’t avoid seeing and hearing the latest, whether I like it or not. It was unfortunate for me, because the people I stayed with in the San Diego area like to watch Fox News, so it was pretty much unavoidable for part of my stay.

I have a theory about this. It has to do with the amount of effort required to spin a political news story so that it somehow supports the Fox News message. Simply put, the writers at Fox News needed a rest. Since it was easy enough to manufacture breaking news by following Karr around as he made his way from southeast Asia to a U.S. courthouse — even if it required a helicopter to get the job done dramatically enough for their intended audience — they seized the moment. I think half the Fox news writers are on vacation right now. After all, the hundreds of people dying daily in the Middle East and Africa is old news, right? The Karr story is fresh and just perverted enough to keep loyal Fox viewers tuned in — without adding fuel their doubts about the President, who has nothing to do with this story.

I went to the Fox News Web site to get the spelling of the guy’s name. (Good thing I did — and I never thought I’d say that — because I was spelling it Carr.) They have a graphic image at the very top-right corner of the screen that includes Karr’s beady (and mascara-highlighted?) eyes staring down at visitors. Clicking that brings up something called the Fox Fan Index, which appears to be commentary from viewers about stories on Fox News, along with an index of popular stories. I guess they’re trying to lure people into this area with promises of more Karr coverage. Today, however, two days after the helicopter surveillance of Karr’s transportation, there was little on the page about the story. But there was the same beady-eyed photo beside a link to a story titled “Reporter’s Notebook: Karr a ‘Demon’ Child?” Yes, this tabloid-style headline can be found on the Web site of one of the top news television channels in America. (And no, I won’t dignify the Fox News site by linking to it from this blog. It’s bad enough that I have to acknowledge its existence. I certainly don’t want to send people there.)

The other tabloids, of course, are having a field day with the story. It ended the two-week dearth of JonBenet coverage at the checkout counter. Yes, they’d been covering the story quite faithfully for almost ten years.

These are terrible times we’re living in.

A Slate piece titled, “Stranger Dangers: Why do we care about the Ramsey Murder?” summarizes the reaction to Slate’s “Little Miss Sunshine” piece that appeared earlier in the week. The piece suggested that we’re all a bit perverse in the way we look at children. Am I a minority? I don’t usually think of sex when I look at kids. Sadly, I can’t say “never.” The reason: all the photos of what should have been an innocent six-year-old child made up and dressed up to look like a Vegas showgirl by her parents. A six-year-old with more makeup on than I’ve ever worn in my life, strutting her tiny body around like a whore trying to attract a John. A parent should never do this to a child. But what upsets me even more is that I know parents are still doing it, selfishly exploiting their pretty children in the hopes of winning beauty pageants and talent contests and possibly landing them acting jobs. Making them targets for pedophiles or at least fueling the fantasies of these sick people.

And what ever happened to childhood? Can’t a kid grow up without being under pressure to meet their parents’ unreasonable expectations for competition and success?

And will JonBenet Ramsey ever rest in peace?

One thought on “Breaking News?

  1. What to say about your adventures as well as your vision and a dedicated expression if it all excell no one deny your professional values. But my chaos is your story is expensive and it is not possible for all of your viewers to attain the same level of personal helicopter flying high up above the sky. Can you imagine if you’re above the sky the whole world will be in your hands whereas when your are on ground reality there is nothing in your reach. I mean poverty and apolo power; booth are in extremes. For me I cant think as high as you’ve covered.

What do you think?