News shmucks

Anyone who has spent more than six months reporting, editing, or watching the news could have guessed that John Mark Karr was just a sicko who was looking for attention. But, no, the news shmucks couldn’t help themselves. They had to dredge up the Jon Benet story because — why? — they had such fond memories of writing every damned hour about a dead little girl? I got a call last week from one of the cable networks asking whether I’d been following what the blogs were saying about Jon Benet. I said proudly that I had no frigging idea what they were saying, if anything, and that I didn’t care. The cable news person said, ‘good for you,’ and went looking elsewhere. There’s always somebody ready to talk about Jon Benet. It’s at moments like these that I feel ashamed for my ‘profession.’ They call this news? They call this journalism? It’s not the voyeurism that’s most offensive. It’s the stupidity.

: LATER: Howard Kurtz asks:

Will every anchor, correspondent and producer who shamelessly hyped the John Mark Karr story now apologize for taking the country for a ride?

Don’t hold your breath. . . .

So Karr was a fake, and the media caravan moves on. But I don’t think the public forgets. They should teach this one in journalism schools for a long time.

Will do.

  • Angelos

    War? What war?

    Failed president? What? Who?

    We have kiddie porn!!!!!!

  • Either stupidity or purest hucksterism. They have a story that will help them with Nielsen, and what is more important to the press these days? If it causes cringing in anyone with 2 brain cells to rub together, so what? It brings warm bodies in front of the electronic hearth.

  • penny

    Can the MSM be anymore vacuous that their preemption of all things important for this little nutball. A 6 year old could have told them from the onset that the guy was a flake. The MSM insults the intelligence of its viewers time and again, and, no, we did not ask for this story and its maniacal 24/7 coverage, you never asked us.

    Sorry, Harry, the story was shoved on the public. Don’t insult the average American by saying that it brought warm bodies to the electronic hearth. That stupid white noise that we have so little control over in public places, doesn’t mean we endorse it.

  • Reminds me of the summer of 2001, with the backyard abductions, Chandra Levy and shark attack stories. All while the big story, unfolding invisibly, was about to hit.

  • Hugh MacLeod

    it’s the combination of paedophilic hucksterism and the declarations of the “sanctity of the journalist’s craft” that rubs me the wrong way….

    at least we bloggers know our weaknesses. I’m a pretty good marketing blogger, i’m not a good political blogger… my reputation is my own. i’ve no third party to triangulate it against- a degree from a decent j-school or a gig at a hallowed broadsheet. let alone a salary.

    i like journalists [esp. neil mcintosh] but their main strength [they’re professionals] is also their main weakness [they’re not amatuers]. and there’s little offline discourse about this.

    rant. over.

  • nyradioguy

    Amen Jeff…the network radio newsroom was going CRAZY today…absolutley bananas for this sensational-tabloid-attention-mongering idiot…I dunno who’s worse, the sicko or the ones giving him all the attention he craves.

  • Angelos

    Another question I never saw answered:

    When he was being brought back to the US, why was he in first class drinking champagne?

    Do all supected child molesters/murderers get such star treatment?

  • OK, so can some of you who know the belly of beast help us understand: when reporters know as well as cops that there is a not-small population of compulsive confession ginks, and they tend to look/act/feel like the aforementioned clown (i just don’t want to type his name, fer pity’s sake, it’s what he wants), how did this story stay viable? Reporters wanting to trim their sails to catch a gust of this publicity? Editors smelling a trend (but what trend?)? Publishers pushing eds to press reporters to get more column inches or minutes up front that draw eyeballs? Where exactly does the inevitability of this kind of herd mentality set in?

    Confused, Jeff

  • Uh, Jeff, you seem to be adding to the mound of JonBenet material yourself…

    Let’s see if “On the Media” does a piece on the press reporting on the press reporting on the story on their next show.

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  • Rik

    “the news shmucks”

    and you shoul talk.

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  • I’m convinced that journalists have become some of the most savvy marketers on the planet.

  • I. F. Stoner

    Deeper than just voyeurism or stupidity:
    It’s hubris and self-justification. Back when the JonBenet story was, um, a real news story, the cable newsers overdid it, it was all JonBenet, all the time. (Like Lacey Peterson later).
    So now that there was ostensibly a development in the case, the cracktards at MSNBC, CNN, et. als had no choice but to commit. It’s a way of justifying the overkill…

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  • Austin

    Amen!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!

  • Well put, sir. On the stupidity, I’m sure many of you’ve seen this already, but as usual The Daily Show’s sendup is not to be missed, with their trademark fast-cuts-to-expose-MSM-idiocy style (prawns and all!)

    Stewart: “Let it sink in, people! … They’re transporting him … by plane.”

    – JonathanR. of Web 2.0 Newspapers

  • Jonas Cord

    My girlfriend and I could not stop laughing last night when the local news teaser said: “A shocking twist in the JonBenet Ramsey case! More at 11!”

    Yeah, the guy didn’t do it and you’ve been wasting everyones time for weeks. That’s a real shocking twist!

  • McCarthyD


    “…They call this news? They call this journalism? It’s not the voyeurism that’s most offensive. It’s the stupidity..”


    The TV “News” producers, writers & teleprompter-readers are not ‘stupid’ {…nor are they serious ‘journalists’} — they are merely out to make a buck, like most other people.

    They produce & sell stuff { & audio} that has proven popular with enough of the viewing public … to make it financially worthwhile. Voyeurism, sensationalism and sex… very reliably attract public attention. If they thought they could get away with it — they’d have topless bimbos reading the ‘news’ on their programs.

    Dull, but important ‘news’ topics don’t attract as large an audience.

    It is a perfectly rational method to make money. It is not stupidity.

    Yes, they are deceptive about the true nature of their ‘product’ — but no more so than many other major American retailers & their true products {.. and most politicians}.

    As always: Buyer {..’viewer’} Beware !

    The core problem is not with ‘them’ — but with starry-eyed idealists who somehow expected to find serious and honest ‘journalism’ in mainstream television.

  • What rock does the media live under? Just about every normal person in America, the moment they saw this guy, said to themselves “this guy is a psycho not a killer.”

    Maybe when the media stops watching “Masterpiece Theater” and starts watching “Cops” they’ll be a little better judge of people….

  • Ethan

    blame the media–what?–when the DA brought him back and charged him? how does that make sense?
    this sort of “shoot the messenger” approach to everything is stupid at best and dangerous at worst.

  • penny

    Hey, Nathan, the DA’s office brought him back for more reasons than assuming he did it. He was a person of interest that couldn’t be ignored after the MSM launched its media blitz. The DA isn’t pressing charges, of course, after examining the evidence, and has showed better sense than the MSM idiots who would love a continuation of their Karr story.

    I am blaming the media. They are idiots. They sniffed this nutball out and found him newsworthy. They didn’t have to run with his story. How the hell do you think he got on your tv screen? The messenger is the story, my friend. All other parties survive by taking defensive action.

  • stephanie

    I can’t believe that we pay this much attention to, and give this much coverage to something that while tragic, is a done deal. There is no saving Jon Benet, and we should focus on those that could be saved.
    If we paid as much attention to the Millennium Development Goals (as i found on ) as we did this nonsense, we would have solved world hunger by now.

  • penny

    stephanie, there isn’t hunger in capitalistic counties with free markets and free elections. rotten, corrupt governments are dangerous to your health. you can throw money all you want down the rat holes of aid to africa, but, decade after decade, it yields nothing but more corruption and aid.

    the only solution to world hunger is overthrowing by force the corrupt regimes in africa. but, i bet in stephanie’s world taking up arms, driving out the oppressors with direct action wouldn’t be nuanced enough. it would smack of colonialist intervention, so, better to keep starving. and they will.

  • In the Atlanta area, we specialize in runaway brides, former meth addicts-turned-Bible-thumpers taking in escaped killers, rap music producers, and assorted falls from grace of various Civil Rights-era leaders. Don’t blame us if the John Mark Karr episode looked like real news. Heck, Fox News was even reporting right from the grave site here. Now if that ain’t gen-u-ine front-line journalism then I’m the ghost of Louise Bryant!

  • Oregonian39

    Look beyond the journalists. When you have station managers and media owners telling you (the reporters) what the news is, real journalism doesn’t stand a chance.

  • Lordy, if that ain’t the truth, Oregonian. The “journalists” or “talent,” I should say, are so well-trained to holler “How high?” when the managers and news directors scream (as many will do), “Jump” at ’em that you can’t really blame ’em. They wouldn’t know real news if they ran, in their crazed and frenzied A/V herds, literally right over it… bless their hearts. And woe to the “talent” that takes it upon their pretty, foolish head to put a foot down about such behavior: no pack mentality = no job.

    My best advice in such situations, especially if you’re short, elbow the sh*t outta the person standing next to you. And do it like you mean it. You will surely be promoted that way!

  • Ga

    Yeah, and I love how the sicko journalists like Nancy Grace and Glen Beck are all up and arms about who’s to blame for Karr being “not the guy” they depended upon these last few weeks.

  • Jeff – While I applaud your message, I cannot help but notice how many posts this blog has attracted. It is rather like the British public and the British press. The public complains that the press are heading downmarket and covering trash – and yet it is the News of the World which sells the most copies each week – by a long, long way. And that is why news outlets give so much space to stories such as these. As Paul Weller so memorably sang: “The public gets what the public wants.”

  • Scott Suttell

    Steve Busfield says it well.

    The media (primarily cable TV news) performed terribly, of course. It’s beyond me why they hyped it when there were so many questions about Karr right away. But there has to be some blame placed on the millions of people who want to watch this kind of stuff.

    I’d love to see one of the big cable giants (don’t care which one) declare that it will not do this kind of news and leave JonBenet, the Runaway Bride, Natalie Holloway, etc., to someone else. But on these stories, they have to play defense. Is Fox going to let, say, 100,000-200,000 viewers migrate over to CNN because it refuses to broadcast a high-interest (though trashy) story.

    By all means, hold media accountable for bad decisions about how much time was spent on the story. But don’t pretend that the reason all newscasts aren’t PBS’ “NewsHour” is because journalists are too stupid to produce produce quality work. As movies, TV, music, etc., amply prove on a weekly basis, many consumers demand junk.

  • It’s a long established rule, Karr wrecks lead.

  • Oh get outta here! Now someone’s quoting Paul Weller. This blog is now officially too cool for the room. Hope we never come to our senses here with our never changing moods about MSM.

  • ah, the freak confessed and the press covered it.

    they clearly dont want to cover the President, so they will go back to falling over themselves to cover missing white girls or dead white girls as if that is those are the only unsolved crimes out there.

    Boy George cleaning the streets in NYC got more ink than the day the White House admitted there were no WMDs in Iraq. That’s your glorious press, America.

  • kat

    I want to hear about the man who went on a killng spree in San Fran. Was he a muslim??

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  • they clearly dont want to cover the President, so they will go back to falling over themselves to cover missing white girls or dead white girls as if that is those are the only unsolved crimes out there.

    Yep, nobody’s covering the President anymore. And I’m pretty sure this is the first time in history the press has gone nuts over a lurid murder case. Damn you, Rove!

  • Eileen

    Yep, kat, lots of crickets chirpin’ on that one. Nary a mention on the nightly news or all day(s) “news” coverage on MSNBC. Now, if some deranged Christian had mown down 15 people, including a couple in front of an abortion clinic (as opposed to a Jewish Community Center), care to imagine the wall to wall coverage which would ensue for weeks?

    What we hear and what we DON’T hear reported by the MSM continues to ‘educate’ (not that we aren’t fully informed by now).

    MSM must be *almost* as upset about the baby killer who wasn’t as they are about Armitage. I’m hearing a lot of coverage; i.e., endless empty commentary, on that one too. Heh.

    Our MSM is in fine form, as ever. I know I trust them implicitly with regard to everything they ‘report’; i.e., propagandize – and don’t.

    [Why, again, are all those viewers and readers abandoning the airwaves and papers in droves? Not even ONe of the MSM types can seem to figure it out!]

  • kat

    MSM doesn’t want the source to be Armitage. If they shove their fingers in their ears and close their eyes, they hope it will just go away. There was endless commentary when they thought it was who they wanted it to be. But the facts completely ruin their story and if they don’t report them, maybe just maybe there will be people believing the previous untruths.

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