If there’s one sure-fire way to break through as an author, it’s to sell a book about a recent tragedy. And if that tragedy involves a celebrity or politician, all the better. Most of these tell-all books manage to arrive in stores within weeks. No one worries about how well written they are, or how fact driven. Only that they are about some media crazed event that’s been hogging the nightly news. I used to think publishers were to blame for this trend; after all, they’re the ones who buy the books. But, to be fair, if the general public didn’t buy them, publishers would stop rushing them to market. Maybe instead of the upcoming ten to twenty titles that will be centered on the media’s latest fascination, Casey Anthony, we’d have only one or two. And maybe those two would actually be worth the price of admission.
I didn’t follow Casey Anthony’s case very closely. I knew the basics from what I saw on the news or read in the paper, but I didn’t spend countless hours in front of CNN or MSNBC or FOX, hanging on every little detail. Naturally I felt bad for the family. The death of a child is a terrible thing, and if little Caylee was murdered, that makes it all so much worse. Yet from what I gathered by news accounts, prosecutors were never able to prove how Caylee died let alone that she was murdered—by her mother or anyone else. The cause of death remains unknown.
I’m not sure what it was about this case that caused such a media frenzy. (Could it really be as simple as Casey’s tattoo?) Awful as it is, children die every day, some from illness, others by freak accidents. A smaller number fall victim to foul play. But how many of those children wind up at the center of the 24-hour news cycle? Thankfully for their families, not many. I couldn’t imagine how awful it would be to hear about my child’s demise day after day after day. Countless strangers giving their opinions on TV. Media-hungry attorneys (and I use the “attorney” term loosely here) popping up on every possible venue giving their expert opinions. If there is a lawyer more reprehensible than Nancy Grace, I hope I never see his or her face.
Obviously the media is absolutely stunned by the jury’s speedy verdict in Anthony’s trial, but is it really stunning? As a juror, your duty is to find a defendant innocent unless there is concrete evidence to the contrary. Maybe Casey is guilty, but the prosecution couldn’t prove it, and so the jury did their job, unpleasant as it might be. For now, the members of that jury remain anonymous. But it’s only a matter of time before they surface. Some by choice, others because the media will find out who they are. Some will break down and cash in on the offers of fame and fortune that are sure to follow. Some won’t. But all will be judged in the media, just as Casey Anthony was judged. How could they allow a murderess to go free? A woman who killed her own child? How will they be able to live with themselves?
To be sure, the media will keep this case alive for months, debating among themselves as to whether justice was done. Nancy Grace will keep on it until some newer, even more sensational case comes to light. That’s how she makes her living. But, as disgusted as that makes me feel, I also know that if people just stopped watching and listening to her, she would have to find something else to do. Just as publishers would have to find other books to publish.