Twenty years ago Thursday, O.J. Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a friend, Ronald Goldman, were found stabbed to death in Los Angeles. The Washington Post offers a retrospective on how the case changed the nation’s media landscape. With Simpson in the back of a white Ford Bronco and former teammate Al Cowlings behind the wheel, and police cars were trailing slowly behind, 95 million viewers tuned in. “White, black, immigrants who were from different races, women and men, rich and poor — and everyone was glued to the television,” said Harvard law Prof. Charles Ogletree, director of the school's Institute for Race and Justice.
Prime-time TV programming in those days consisted of scripted entertainment. No one could imagine that, two decades into the future, televising the trivialities of daily life would captivate the public. “What I realized is, this is entertainment,” said Gerald Uelmen, one of Simpson's defense attorneys. “This is not news.” The Post says that, “in the years since, the lineage of so many cultural phenomena — the 24-hour news cycle, a never-ending stream of reality television shows and many Americans' unquenchable thirst for celebrity gossip — can be traced to this nearly 16-month span.”