Peterson Trial TV: “Pure Sugar, No Nutrition”


The Scott Peterson murder trial in California, which is expected finally to end this week, has been one of the most heavily covered stories the last two years on daytime cable and the morning network shows but has received light coverage on TV’s evening news hours, reports the Washington Post. “What is quite apparent is the enormous difference between the network morning shows and their evening news shows,” said tv analyst Andrew Tyndall. “It’s black and white.”

Why all the coverage? Says the Post: “The victim was young, female, middle-class and pregnant — and her husband appears to be the villain (or at least a cad; that he cheated on her is not in dispute). And once the public seized on the case, embraced the families’ pain and the did-he-do-it aspects, it was a ratings boost that cost relatively little to cover and produced the endless back-and-forth of trial dissection by proxy that can keep a story running for months.” Marty Kaplan, associate dean of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication, called the trial coverage “pure white sugar, addictive and without nutrition.” He added: “There is no redeeming value. No morality play. No public policy fig leaf. It only goes to our most prurient interests. The trashiest novelists could not have come up with this. But we can’t seem to help ourselves. It’s our lizard brains.”


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