An arrest in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey has some in the media apologizing for earlier coverage pointing fingers at Ramsey’s parents. Media columnist Jack Shafer of Slate.com says apologies aren’t warranted yet. “When the district attorney said the Ramseys were under an ‘umbrella of suspicion’ three-plus months after the murder, were reporters supposed to suppress his statement?,” he asks. Shafer doesn’t defend tabloid coverage like a 1999 cover story in The Star headlined “JonBenet Was Killed by Brother Burke.” The tabloid retracted the story and settled out of court after the Ramseys sued for libel.
Shafer’s conclusion: “When the press behaved in an amateurish fashion, it was generally because they were relying on amateurish investigation by the police and prosecutor. As the press came to realize authorities were doofuses, over their heads and out of control, coverage became sharper and more skeptical.”