Sunday, August 26, 2007

No matter how hard we try, we can't get rid of O.J. Simpson

When observing the 24-hour-a-day news cycle the media exist in, a common tactic they use to fill up all that time is to focus on one particular story and then grind it into the ground.

It is a classic tabloid approach that has been around for centuries, but with the mass communication explosion of the last couple of decades, media organizations have taken it up a notch.

I think all of us could cite specific examples of this lately. It seems every month or so a story comes along that the media clamps on to and does not let go until every drop of juice is squeezed from it.

For example, the scandal involving quarterback Michael Vick and his role in animal cruelty activities has been a staple of media coverage lately. It has multiple issues to attract an audience: wealth, celebrity, race, horror, and many other factors that seemingly hypnotize the public.

The story has definitely been a 'golden child' when it comes to filling up blocks of time on talk radio and news channels.

When referring to this case in this way, I don't mean to trivialize the seriousness of the issues involved. Animal cruelty is a serious subject, but there can be no questioning that Vick's celebrity status is the only reason this case is getting so much attention.

Unfortunately, crimes of this nature take place frequently, but they were only a blip on the radar until the Vick situation occurred.

Of course, another case involving a prominent athlete played a significant role in the development of the type of media coverage that has been focused at Vick.

In 1994, when NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson was implicated in the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, an unprecedented media frenzy was born.

It was all O.J., all the time on many networks, and a large segment of the public could not eat it up fast enough. Even though it has been more than a decade since the Simpson saga played out, it still pops back into view from time to time.

Recently, a book publisher announced plans to publish Simpson's hypothetical book, "If I Did It." The book reportedly contains Simpson's theoretical account of how he could have committed the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend. Last year, the existence of the book was made known but public outrage and family anger caused it to be shelved.

We live in a cynical age in which many folks can hear horrible news and not flinch one bit. We have gotten bombarded with negative images and news to the point that our hearts have become calloused.

So, it is saying something when a sleazy book like this can provoke such a passionate response.

The bottom line is this book is about as bad as it gets. A book about how somebody could have hypothetically murdered two people? I guess money is still green even if it is dripping with the blood of the two victims.

Still, I can't help but think that many folks are being hypocritical when it comes to criticizing this book. After all, the reason a book like this has even been written is because of the public's fascination with Simpson.

It doesn't matter that he was held accountable for those deaths in a civil trial. For those who believe he is guilty, it does not come close to the punishment those folks feel he deserves.

Because of this, the most infamous product of the 24-hour news cycle will continue to be a person of extreme interest. Simpson was inducted into the professional football hall of fame for his success there, but if there was a CNN hall of fame he would likely deserve a place there, too.

Their willingness (and the willingness of other media) to repeatedly cram his situation down the throats of America for ratings while ignoring many noteworthy news stories earned them a lot of money. However, the idea of being a guardian for the people became a little less important during that time.

Their decision to do that has probably impacted us in ways we do not know.


Anonymous said...

no more o.j. just no more o.j.

Magnolia said...

Well said.