WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Did wall-to-wall O.J. coverage 20 years ago lead to dumbing down of media, reality TV?

Were you glued to your TV screen 20 years ago as the news networks aired wall-to-wall coverage of O.J. Simpson's white Bronco proceeding down the expressway? Did you follow the subsequent trial like no other?

With its incendiary blend of sports, celebrity, violent crime, and race, the O.J. story had an intoxicating effect on America.

It also underscored the route for cable TV news. Apart from the partisan back-and-forth, cable TV news would fixate on one story, cover the hell out of it, almost to the exclusion of all other news. It's what the public seemed to want, after all.

Even a syndicated radio show dedicated solely to the O.J. Simpson case started up soon afterwards.

Once again, many more Americans could spout all the minutiae about the O.J. case, but have extreme difficulty finding a country on a map.

MarketWatch columnist Jon Friedman recounts how O.J. triggered major transitions in media...


Posted at 1:24pm on June 17, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jun 17, 2014 2:11pm
Allan, I have a different spin on the O.J. trial.

It certainly may have contributed to where folks will fixate on a given topic and get quite passionate about it, which the nation certainly did during O.J.'s trial. Thus, the cable and radio talkers then buried us in wall-to-wall coverage.

O.J.'s trial angered people, both black and white. White's believe O.J. got away with murder. Blacks originally figured O.J. wouldn't get a fair trial in the "white man's court" [remember hearing such remarks even on local talk radio]. Then, when O.J. was aquitted, the black community seemed to come across as, "Well one of us finally got over on the system."

A similar scenario replayed out again later with the Rodney King [I remember him losing, and then the L.A. riots, and then a re-trial where, he was aquitted]. Those L.A. riots where Reginald Denny, the white trucker who was seriously injured during the L.A. riots - yet no one was charged with his beating. So a case like O.J. Simpsons' and these other trials definitely didn't help bring the two groups [black and white] closer together.

During the Trevon Martin case too, to a lesser extent, but it seemed generally most blacks favored Martin and wanted the white Hispanic Zimmerman fried. It also seemed that many, if not most, whites felt Zimmerman was justified.

These cases seem to point out that as a nation we are still very divided by race as both sides are prejudiced against the other. It would seem to indiciate that maybe we can get along in a normal day, but when something like this happens, we all like the Sharks and the Jets at the Dance in the Gym scene from that old Broadway Musical "West Side Story", when something goes wrong we all jump back to our sides of the Gym.

Sadly, we haven't been able to eliminate the "tribal" mentality on either side. We'll stand together as Americans in war on the battlefield, at work, cheering in sporting events, enjoying music and movies, even voting for President [where many whites added their vote to the black community's to provide the needed majority to elect Obama], etc., but something about a court trial brings out the old distrust of the other race for the other.

That's what I remember from those long weeks, that seemed like months, of the O.J. trial.

Tue, Jun 17, 2014 8:42pm
I completely avoided all the 20th anniversary coverage. If I'm going to relive something, I'd rather it be something worthwhile, like the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

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