Monday, May 2, 2011

The Grace Plague

By: Cassie Whitt

I really don’t want to make this post about Nancy Grace, but it’s happening. I knew by the time I had gotten half-way into May 3’s second assigned reading that she, irksome thing she is, would not leave my head.

Nancy Grace, CNN’s self-described “justice themed/interview/debate show, designed for those interested in the breaking crime news of the day,” is named for it’s former crime-prosecutor host and perpetuates several of the “no-no”s about which the articles we read forewarn.

Grace spends most of her air time, not focusing on the news elements of stories, but further demonizing criminals with graphic word-choices and blatant proclamations of how horrible people are. She, determined for dramatics, shows very little compassion toward those she interviews.

She has a funny way of showing she cares for victims and wants to bring them justice. See, for instance, the clip below and just how “sensitively” she treats her interview subject with graphic descriptions of his childrens’ murder.

Of the seven victims and survivors who gained post-tragedy media attention and were interviewed for the "How the Media Treated Me" article we read, none said they wished reporters had described the details of the deaths of their loved-ones. Shows like Nancy Grace perpetuate something that was mentioned in that article: Media insensitivity and over-coverage interfere with the grieving process. It's the most invasive way a person can be treated in a time when they need sensitivity the most.

Before you all jump on me, I'm aware the Nancy Grace show is not necessarily a news program, but a place for her to give her perspective on crime-focused news. Still, often when a story—one of those bleeding leading ones—is ongoing, her show will receive incoming information, which becomes a part of hasty reporting and overheated discourse.

There are people, my mother being one of them, who mistake that for news.

My mother swears by the word of Grace and becomes engrossed in her "Damsel in Distress" types of stories we read about in Rem Rieder's AJR article, "Just Say No." That article explored the over-coverage of the Natalee Holloway story in particular, but also brought to light that similar stories of "white, young and attractive" crime victims and missing persons receive sensational coverage.

Though the over-coverage has good intentions: To spread the word and find the victims, it often has the opposite effect. My mother, when she watches those stories of missing girls, is missing something herself-- the rest of the news. Her world view is distorted.

I'm a firm believer in Mean World Syndrome because of my mother and her obsession with that damsel in distress crime coverage. She doesn't want me outside after sundown, has mild heart attacks if she finds out I've been outside alone after 9 while here at school, and once called the police here in Athens to come look for me when my phone died while I was walking home from a meeting.

It's intense. And, I believe, a direct effect of the bloody coverage in which she chooses to immerse herself.

In the "Et Tu, 'Nightline'" article, we were told that some may argue there is no harm in over-focus. The aforementioned mental distortion of our world is, clearly, a harmful consequence.

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