Cosby Sex Assault Trial Is No Media Circus

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The Bill Cosby sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pa., is far from the media circus that surrounded the O.J. Simpson murder trial in the 1990s, which was set against the glamorous backdrop of Los Angeles and produced voluminous coverage globally, the New York Times reports. In a week when the news cycle has been dominated by hearings in Washington, an election in Britain and terrorism around the world, the long-awaited trial of an icon almost seems like an afterthought. CNN postponed a special report on the Cosby case to coincide with the start of the trial because of breaking news. The British news organization Sky News rethought its coverage plans after the terrorist attack in London last weekend. Now that the prosecution’s two star witnesses have testified, the media’s interest may dwindle further until there is a verdict. “Is it the lead story? No,” said Jean Casarez of CNN. “But is it being covered? Yes.”

Newsrooms are under financial pressure, and resources are more limited than at the time of the Simpson case. With fewer employees, it is harder for news outlets to staff a long, out-of-the-way event like Cosby’s trial. While the Simpson prosecution was an absorbing murder mystery, there is little doubt that a 2004 sexual encounter between Cosby, now 79, and the woman whose assault allegations led to the criminal charges. The issue at stake is whether the encounter was consensual or whether Cosby used a drug to render Andrea Constand defenseless and sexually assault her. More than 120 media outlets have credentials to cover the trial. James Koval, director of communications for Pennsylvania courts, arrived early in the morning at the beginning of last week to help direct arriving television trucks. Local television stations pepper their news coverage with updates and live shots from the courthouse steps. (Cosby arrived in court today for day six of his trial and the start of the defense side of the case, accompanied for the first time by his wife of 53 years, Camille. The question hanging over the case was whether the TV star would testify, the Associated Press reports.)

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