For weeks the media has been obsessed by the circus surrounding the arrest and transfer of John Mark Karr, who confessed to the 1996 killing of JonBenet Ramsey. DNA tests prove he’s not the killer. In the lead up to the results 24 hour network news tracked each nauseating detail of Karr’s arrest, flight from Bangkok to LAX (including everything he ate on board), and his journey on to Boulder, Colorado. Columnists and irate callers to talkline shows went on for days on how horrible it was to transfer such a dangerous man with business class treatment. Many of my own compadres in the editorial cartooning field felt it necessary to weigh in on John Mark Karr.
So, ten years after the initial media circus surrounding the death of a little girl, the world was treated to another media circus surrounding the arrest of an obviously disturbed man. For what purpose? The legacy of this whole story may very well be the frenzy surrounding this story. Media frenzies have become the mainstay of 24 hour news coverage and they often result from isolated occurence when nothing else seems to be happening or when it’s deemed necessary to break from constant and rather fatiguing news stories. Was the media collectively getting a little tired of covering the ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel before John Mark Karr’s creepy face appeared on tv screens? I’d say so.
OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, Gary Condit, Elian Gonzalez, Terri Schiavo and JonBenet Ramsey are people whose names have inspired so much coverage and so much air time not just on FOX and CNN, but also on the covers of People and the National Inquirer. All to the benefit of rubberneckers. Even the recent silly antics of Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise have been deemed significant enough by media outlets to warrant them #1 news story placement. I guess it’s what the surveys show people want to hear about.
Next year at this time they’ll still be talking about Israel and Hezbollah. John Mark Karr’s name will be a distant memory.