Media obsession with Anthony trial goes too far

On June 20, 2011

Three years ago, a 2-year-old girl disappeared near Orlando. Her body was found five months later.

In the ensuing years, much has been made of the death of Caylee Anthony, generating a huge amount of media coverage.

While the public certainly has a right to know about the case, the media should exercise good taste in dealing with the tragedy. Florida law is among the most liberal in the country in terms of media coverage, allowing reporters to attend, film and photograph court proceedings. However, those freedoms should not be taken advantage of for shock value.

Part of the public interest in the case is because it involves a white suburban mother and her beautiful, now-deceased child. The media have, for the past three years, turned the case into a sideshow - showing photos of Caylee Anthony's remains and analyzing photos of her mother, Casey Anthony, partying with friends.

The most recent product of this obsession came Friday, when a fight broke around 5:45 a.m. just outside the courthouse where Casey Anthony's murder trial is taking place.

The combatants, it turns out, were members of the general public waiting in line for an opportunity to get tickets to Friday's trial proceedings.

A video from CBS News shows three women punching a man as he grabs one of them in a headlock. There have been stampedes on other days because there are only 50 tickets available to the public for each day's trial portion.

According to data from the FBI, about 16,272 people were murdered in 2008. While not all of those cases resulted in a trial, many certainly did.

One would be hard pressed to find another instance of an early morning fistfight, filmed by cameras from national news outlets, over tickets to view the proceedings in any of the other murders that occurred that year. That is because you would also be hard pressed to find another of those murders being talked about in tabloids and on talk shows across the country.

In October 2009, local Tampa radio host Bubba the Love Sponge offered Casey Anthony's parents $25,000 to appear on his show, according to Central Florida News 13. That same month, media outlets found fit to report on Casey Anthony's shoulder blade tattoo that reads "Bella Vita," Italian for "beautiful life."

It is that type of obsession that has lead to fistfights and stampedes outside of courtrooms. Such displays are an affront to the dignity of justice and disrespect the memory of a young toddler whose life was cut so tragically short.

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