[b]Court TV found guilty of lacking fairness[/b] Publication date: 06-15-2005 The Michael Jackson trial was a great disappointment to me, but it had nothing to do with Mr. Jackson or the verdict. Instead, my disappointment is focused on what had been one of my favorite TV outlets, Court TV. In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I have what might be called a special interest in that channel. The man who is credited as a founder of cable’s Court TV, Steven Brill, once told me at a gathering in Washington, D.C., that a program with which I was associated was his inspiration, Back in the late 1980s, I was the host of a nationally syndicated show called “On Trial.” It was the brainchild of a wild and woolly – and innovative – TV producer named Woody Frazier. On a cross-country trip, Woody watched local newscasts and learned that, for the first time, cameras were allowed in a growing number of courtrooms around the country. He decided to take advantage of this new environment by creating a show. He would send three, and sometimes four, camera crews across the country to cover interesting trials. They would be edited in such a way that two or three ongoing trials would be covered every day on the Monday-through-Friday program. It was a great idea and got decent ratings, but it was too expensive to sustain in syndication. However, Steven Brill watched the show and thought it might work on cable. He was right. Court TV was born. Eventually, Steven left his brainchild with others, but any time I had an interest in a trial with national implications, I watched Court TV. It was the gold standard for coverage of the judicial system. When the Michael Jackson trial emerged, I initially avoided it like the plague. A celebrity plus allegations of child molestation equaled “circus.” Besides, so many things were going on in our lives that Nina and I didn’t have time for it anyway. [b]As the trial reached critical mass a week or so ago, however, I decided to take a look and, of course, went to the channel of record, Court TV. I was appalled. What had happened? Instead of coverage, I was assaulted by advocacy. The channel had been “Foxified.” There were no legal reporters, only hanging judges. For instance, what had changed one of my favorite reporters in electronic journalism, Diane Dimond? She had become such an anti-Jackson shill she was unrecognizable and embarrassing to watch. Did she know it? Was some editor showing her the daily stand-ups and ad-lib exchanges so she could see how far she had tilted?[/b] I had no position on the Jackson matter. I do not know him or any of his friends; I have never been an admirer of his work. I knew nothing of the accuser or his family. As far as I was concerned, if the evidence proved he molested this boy, he should be strung up by the thumbs before being shot. But settling that question was the job of the prosecutors and defense team, not of reporters. [b]Unfortunately on Court TV, they presented us with only poor excuses for reporters. Virtually without exception, they tirelessly advocated for the prosecution hour after hour, day after day. It became ludicrous. They reported some of the evidence and testimony, then told us that only the prosecution was credible. The drumbeat was incessant.[/b] Gloria Allred’s daughter and Kimberly Guilfoyle-Newson – who shares the Guilfoyle surname of my maternal antecedents – caused this old reporter to blush with their advocacy. It was little better with Jack Ford and the old CBS icon Fred Graham. Or, more’s the pity, with a friend and a woman whose work I have always admired, former judge Catherine Crier. Of course, the most egregious example of runaway, out-of-control advocacy was Nancy Grace, the TV Frankenstein created by Larry King, but I expected no more from her. The one Court TV reporter holding the rational center was Jami Floyd. I send one reporter’s salute to her. It could not have been easy. As for the others, since each called Jackson guilty without hearing all the evidence, perhaps all should be fired and replaced by the members of the Jackson jury. At least they listened dispassionately and exhibited even-handed common sense. Nick Clooney writes for The Post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Write to him in care of The Post at 125 E. Court St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. E-mails sent to Nick at postliving@cincypost.com will be forwarded to him via regular mail. Source: http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050615/LIFE03/506150338/1008/LIFE

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