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Media Coverage of the O.J. Simpson Trial

The media coverage of the O.J. Simpson criminal case was excessive and a prime example of sensationalism in journalism. Although the media claimed that the coverage was justified, little was gained for the general public. The real winners were the television stations, book authors, and reporters who turned the case into a media gold mine. Perhaps the most lasting social effect of the trial was the revelation of racial differences in thinking in America.

The O.J. Simpson criminal case had all the ingredients that tabloid journalists crave. Simpson was, of course, a celebrity. In addition, he was attractive, as were the murder victims. Spicing up the case were the added, forbidden elements of race and sex: "America's dirty little secret--the obsession with race and sex that had haunted the nation since the days of slavery and was always just below the surface of civilized discourse."

The O.J. Simpson criminal case was the victim of a media snowball effect. Television stations that aired the trial were rewarded with sensational ratings: "CNN's ratings increased five-fold when it televised the Simpson proceedings." Once competing television stations started airing the trial, other stations had no choice but to follow suit. As the competition frenzy deepened, television stations resorted to leading off their news broadcasts with minor trivia related to the trial. Coverage of the Simpson trial often pre-empted news of much greater importance to society, a phenomenon that one critic referred to as the "O.J.-ification of the news." The attention the media gave to the Simpson trial was clearly excessive.

The pre-trial publicity of the O.J. Simpson case was difficult for jurors to ignore. Every newsstand display, from supermarkets to airports, carried cover stories about the tragedy: "The major news magazines ran ten cover stories about it [the Simpson case] between June 1994 and April 1995." Among the most inf...

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Media Coverage of the O.J. Simpson Trial. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:48, May 26, 2020, from