For those of you smart enough to have not watched the news circa 1994-1995, that was the period when the NFL great killed his (most likely) cheating wife and her boyfriend. CNN (the only all-news channel at the time) did coverage of the preliminary hearing that overshadowed the death of North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung. And this was but the beginning.
In 1995 the trial officially began. And, my God, did the fourth estate lose its shit! With Judge Lance Ito allowing cameras into the courtroom, television networks, especially CNN and Court TV, were covering this at all times. In particular, CNN was having “talking heads” from both sides of the story debate the case every night. Well, “debate” may be too kind a word. More like talk over each other all the time like teenagers in a concert. Also, there was Larry King, at a career high point, constantly interviewing key figures in the case. It was a truly embarrassing time for the news when you couldn’t turn on your TV without hearing about Judge Ito’s most recent outburst, whether Marcia Clark and Chris Darden were screwing on weekends, and whichever funny hat Johnny Cochran was wearing in court.
The ironic thing about it was that this really isn’t a very exciting case. Again, this was a typical murder setup. Besides, most of the trial was quite boring. It was dominated by statistical descriptions of scientific evidence by lawyers who weren’t anywhere near as charismatic as the talking heads described them as being. Meanwhile, big stories like steep reductions in crime rates, mass killings in Bosnia, or a budget standoff in Washington that threatened major Medicare cuts were pushed to the middle pages.
Probably the only reason the OJ Simpson trial was labeled “the trial of the century” (what about Nuremberg?) was because the networks got to videotape the famous bronco chase. This was a slow chase with a highly certain outcome. But it was live, dammit!
Now there are little bits on the news giving us a chance to relive it. Somebody from Dateline recently did a documentary about the trial and was interviewed by Chris Matthews. I’ve also seen other “twenty years later” stories. Another documentary about the trial on Investigation Discovery aired just last night. Pollingreport.com sourced some pieces recently. These are but three examples.
But do we really need this? Before the armed robbery trial thirteen years after the original trial, I had all but forgotten that OJ existed. As this is going on, there’s disaster in Iraq. And still we’re flashbacking to this low point in journalism.
Isn’t enough enough? How much longer is this going to go on? Perhaps until OJ dies.