Wednesday, August 04, 2010

No, but thanks for asking

The capacity of the American newspaper to delude itself about public opinion while patting itself on the back about public service will never cease to amaze me:

With the Casey Anthony trial still months away, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for every morsel of information in the case, journalists and bloggers must make do with the scraps of news they can find.

How do we know there's a "seemingly insatiable appetite" for "every morsel of information"? We don't. We just made that up. Presumably to justify putting this sort of stuff on the front page:

In recent days, we learned the young woman charged with her child's murder owed the Orange County Jail about $40 but then had her jail account replenished. Her parents appear to be emerging from the threat of foreclosure and keeping their home. Her defense, meanwhile, has billed the state about $3,800 in expenses, while her attorney struggled with his own financial issues.

In other words, the paper that celebrated Sunshine Week last year with this lede:

We know when Casey Anthony orders a ponytail holder, candy bars and deodorant.

... has found another way to justify the sort of fundamental lack of news judgment that's almost impossible to distinguish from simple adolescent voyeurism. Let's ask the Stupid Question another way, as in the online hed:

Does Casey Anthony's right to a fair trial trump public's right to know?

ll -- yeah. Or no. Or maybe, depending on whether we're talking about the "people's right to know" or (as Richard Mitchell, the Underground Grammarian) used to put it, the people's right to know trivia. Back to our story:

Such details get served to a public hungry for information in the absence of true developments in the death-penalty case. And when real news breaks, the coverage only grows more intense in print, online and on television.

Once again, it'd be nice to see some -- any -- support for the assertion that the public is "hungry for information." But it'd be even nicer to see some responsibility for who's doing the serving here. Unless the Scarlet Pimpernel has snuck into your afternoon budget meeting and has his minions signing off on the front, you guys are doing this. Casey Anthony's hygiene purchases are your obsession, not the public's. If you want to avoid this sort of self-righteous navel-gazing, you could start by putting the tidbits in one pile and the "true developments" in another. Then staple the tidbits to a baseball bat and hit the 1A editor on the head with it.



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