For months, the Laci Peterson murder case has been featured at or near the top of newscasts, especially on all the morning network and cable news shows, sometimes taking priority over even the war in Iraq, says the Boston Globe. Media saturation transformed the case into a celebrity-driven frenzy, even though neither Scott nor Laci were famous before her disappearance. Laci was the subject of a much-repeated two-hour episode of “E! True Hollywood Story,” a distinction usually reserved for the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Anna Nicole Smith, and Elvis. What could possibly be less Hollywood than a fertilizer salesman and a substitute teacher from a small California city, the Globe asks?
Network executives defended their coverage by claiming they were only fulfilling a public craving for information about the case. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Fox News talk-show host Bill O’Reilly said, “We do Laci Peterson every 15 minutes and see the numbers go up.” The Globe suggests that instead of an endless parade of talking heads, television reports might have explored the fact that murder, according to a 2001 Maryland study later published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the leading cause of death for pregnant women. The media circus will resume when Michael Jackson’s molestation trial begins next month.