Why are cable television networks obsessing over the story of John Mark Karr, an Alabama man arrested in Thailand in the JonBenet Ramsey case? “The funny thing is that you can help your ratings and erode your reputation,” Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project on Excellence in Journalism in Washington, D.C., told the Christian Science Monitor. “The [broadcast] networks came to understand that, but the cable networks just can’t seem to resist.” In a recent survey on the state of the media, PEJ found that cable “is thinly reported, suffers from a focus on the immediate, especially during the day, is prone to opinion mongering and is easily controlled by sources who want to filibuster.” The findings could put cable at risk of losing viewers to the Internet and other news outlets, PEJ concluded.
Andrew Kohut of the Pew Center for the People and the Press said, “[Ratings] will fall off, but you’ll still have a story that’s big enough to move the needle and attract people who like this kind of stuff. “That’s what keeps cable news in business at times when there’s not real breaking news.” “The problem is that one can never get one’s reputation back,” says Clay Calvert, a professor of communications and law at Penn State University and coauthor of “Press Coverage of The JonBenet Ramsey Murder and Its Legal Implications.” “No amount of coverage could ever make up for the harms that were done to the Ramsey family.”