Imprimatur and the brimstone of the media

The reaction to the Casey Anthony decision has got me thinking.  While there is most certainly a clear purpose for freedom of the press in a democratic society, where is the current balance on what ought to be broadcast or published?  Facebook is full of condemnation for this woman from people who did not hear evidence presented in the court, did not sit on the jury, and most importantly did not hold her life in their hands.  I would use the phrase "armchair quarterback" here if it did not utterly over-trivialize the discussion.

There is certainly cause for some local media stories to have the national media spotlight, but this one does not rise to that level.  Her fate is not connected in any meaningful way to our own.  She did not enjoy any previous celebrity.  She is in our collective conscience only due to sensation of her alleged crime.  In this case the "isn't it awful" sensation is the nearly unavoidable human instinct to witness pathos.  It is the same concept of our inability to turn away from car accidents, or to wince and look on when a vampire bites.   The truth is Casey Anthony's story ought not to have caught our attention, but we simply cannot help ourselves.

As a writer who can create and control not only the characterizations of my creations, but also the actual behavior of the characters themselves, I have to struggle to avoid the injecting pathos for its own sake.  I am not writing of vampire strikes, rather I strive to write of realistic characters who live through extraordinary events.  It would benefit us all if news producers and the chattering heads on television picked up those character notes for the very real people they choose to cover with the blistering disfigurement ray they call a spotlight.


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