Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What's in the news

I was going to write about the first carrier landing for the F-35.

But after checking out the world's news sites this morning, something else grabbed me. Not only is the world obsessed with Amanda Knox, but the obsession has illustrated the way media approaches a case like this.

Everyone wants to attract readers, and that means a compelling story. I have this crazy idea that a good story can stand on its own merits. A college girl is accused of a bizarre murder in a foreign country. Hey, that works for me. But the narrative that developed in the years since the case started has basically split into two storylines: Knox as innocent victim caught in the gears of an unjust legal system, and Knox as the sex-crazed manipulative she-devil. (although to be fair, I think U.S. print media have generally done a good job of playing it straight. TV, though....)

If you did want to portray her as an angel or devil, the lawyers presented a veritable Italian smorgasbord of colorful imagery. For instance,

Knox was ... described as a "she devil," a "liar" and a woman who has an "angelic" side as well as a "diabolic" side.

Or remember "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"?
Defense lawyer Giulia Bongiorno ... compared Knox to Jessica Rabbit, the hourglass-shaped, husky-voiced cartoon character who insists in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" that she's not bad, she's just "drawn that way."

So there were a lot of juicy words out there with which to attract readers. The British media ran with them. "Foxy Knoxy" is one I saw a lot. And the Daily Mail actually went a step further, declaring her guilty, or should I say


and included a line in display type about how stunned she looked as her appeal was rejected. Now that's dedication to sensationalizing a story.

I don't speak Italian, but the media there have, not surprisingly, reacted badly to the idea that haughty America was casting judgment on its legal system. That resulted in a little bit of backlash in terms of the way Knox was depicted. There also have been some allegations that the Italian media were all too willing to take anything the government told them as gospel ... of course, this is not something unique to Italy.

From the outside looking in, the story appears to me to have all the hallmarks of what many jaded journos call "the cute white girl in trouble" story. It is the kind of news judgment that turns run-of-the-mill kidnappings into front-page news. I don't know whether Knox is guilty. But I do hope that no matter where the truth lies among all the headlines--sensational and otherwise--justice was served.

And now I'll go back to paying attention to other things, like shiny rockets and interesting words.

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