Cable TV gives JonBenet tabloid treatment

Aug. 21, 2006 at 11:25 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- The latest turn in the JonBenet Ramsey case highlights differences between U.S. broadcast networks' news coverage and cable's sensationalism, a report says.

John Mark Karr, the man arrested in Thailand on child pornography charges, was initially targeted in the unsolved murder of the child beauty pageant winner, the Christian Science Monitor reported. But 24 hours later, news organizations began to examine inconsistencies in Karr's statements.

The nightly news is to 24-hour cable as the New York Times is to the Daily News, the Monitor said. It thrives on stories like JonBenet, which can spike ratings.

Cable stations are likely to report breaking news without much scrutiny, the newspaper said.

"The funny thing is that you can help your ratings and erode your reputation," Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project on Excellence in Journalism, said.

In its 2006 survey on the state of the media, the journalism organization found cable is "thinly reported," focuses on the immediate and is "prone to opinion mongering."

Even John Ramsey, JonBenet's father, urged the media not to repeat its mistakes and convict Karr in the realm of public opinion before he has even been charged.

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