I can barely remember the day O.J. Simpson was acquitted. But I do remember where I was. It was 9th grade, and I was in a band class at Southwest Junior High in Forest Lake, Minnesota. A bunch of us played percussion and we’d hide in the back behind the bulky instruments during rehearsal. Bass drums provided excellent cover from the enemy sniper (the instructor). But on October 3, 1995, we were all ears as the our instructor piped in the final moments of the trial through the old, wooden, carpet-covered speakers on the walls. It was quite a moment. I think everyone cheered when the jury read the verdict. The Juice was free. Funny how my views have changed since then, when you grow up and learn how the world ‘really is’.
Today I’m working at a television station, intimately covering the next ‘Trial of the Century’ – The murder trial of Casey Anthony. In recent weeks I’ve been providing analysis from our WFTV mobile studio with our legal analyst. I co-host 1/2 hour specials on Saturdays. Testimony airs on our station (and all the others) from 9-5 every day, and even Saturday mornings. Coverage is promoted on radio, TV, the web, newspaper – even from the glow of television screens visible through the glass of restaurant windows as you drive down the street. People are fixated. They love the drama. But this time, it’s not a former ‘hero’ to many young men under the microscope, but an alleged cold-blooded mother who strikes a familiar chord with fellow mothers nationwide.
Does the Casey Anthony trial have the ability to be as popular or even more popular than the People vs. O.J. Simpson?
Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry seems to think so – stating at one point in court that Anthony’s trial might “even dwarf” the coverage of the so-called “trail of the century,” the first OJ Simpson trial — in the last century.
It’s hard for me to gauge the reach of this trial because I’m living it everyday. When I lived in Minnesota, it was easy to understand the scope of the Simpson trial because it reached a place like Forest Lake (not much happens there!). And O.J. was a celebrity. But Casey Anthony’s story angers people – especially women. So the case has the ability to reach far and wide.
Also, we weren’t Facebooking, Tweeting, texting, blogging and emailing in 1995. I remember just two years earlier in 7th grade, I clicked a button on my Industrial Tech teacher’s computer that dialed the Minneapolis library TelNet system. When I heard the modem start to chirp, I ran for my life. I thought the cops were coming to get me, having no idea who…or what was going to answer the internet call.
A TruTV article showed some interesting stats regarding the Simpson trial:
An incredible 91% of the television viewing audience watched it and an unbelievable 142 million people listened on radio and watched television as the verdict was delivered.
One study estimated that U.S. industry lost more than $25 billion as workers turned away from their jobs to follow the trial.
2000 reporters covered the trial. 121 video feeds snaked out of the Criminal Courts building where it was held. There were over 80 miles of cable servicing 19 television stations and eight radio stations. 23 newspaper and magazines were represented throughout the trial, the Los Angeles Times itself publishing over 1000 articles throughout the period. Over 80 books and thousands of articles have already been published, authored seemingly by everyone with any role in the trial.
Can you imagine if we had Twitter back then? Well, we’re seeing the fanatical social coverage with the Anthony trial right now – so in sheer numbers, I have to believe it will surpass those related to the Simpson case. Tracking analytics will take a small miracle and compiling the data would be quite a chore, but it’d be interesting to see how the two cases stacked up.
Despite the fact I’m in Orlando and ‘plugged in’ to the case daily, I see the national networks, newspapers, blogs and the like are all over it, so Casey Anthony has reached a cult following.
And there’s still a month to go in the trial. Will there be trial fatigue? I doubt it. People are becoming even more addicted, even through the boring computer forensics testimony (I loved that the most!). In fact, one person was taken away in a stretcher, and the cops removed a woman from outside of the courtroom today.
The day the jury returns the verdict will be a day of fireworks. You can bet when the verdict is read, I won’t be hiding behind a bass drum, but I must admit, sometimes that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. With all this coverage, a nap doesn’t sound like a bad idea.