Only in America Can We Find a New Way to Beat an Old Story Into the Ground Again.

JonBenet Ramsey. A tragic story and while this terrible event played out a thousand miles away, it managed to make my life miserable in Memphis. I admit I hate to see anything bad happen to children, especially when it’s caused by an adult. I mean, come on, they’re children. let them be young and as carefree as they can be. They grow up too fast as it is.
JonBenet Ramsey was only six years old when she was found beaten and strangled around Christmas. Christmas is usually a slow news day and just abbout anything that happens can become big news. I’ve always said, “it’s all about timing.”
From the news reports, JBR’s mother who participated in pageants, had dressed her up like a little doll for child beauty pageants, perhaps trying to fulfill some long-lost dream of her own. I personally think that’s kind of tragic in itself but that’s a different story for a different time.
IMHO, the JBR story signaled the major transition to tabloid news coverage by main media outlets. While this had some possible lurid angles with the parents being accused at some point in time, it was in fact a LOCAL story. It happened in the Denver area and again, while it was tragic, it shouldn’t have gone much beyond that area after the first week. A bunch of kids weren’t gunned down at school or blown up in a federal building. JBR was a local story that became tabloid fodder on a national level.
I grew to dread having to read the inevitable JBR stories that peppered our morning and noon newscasts. They were always there and after a while the story of a dead little girl in Denver took on a life of its own. News magazines did extensive stories on parents who push children into pageants and various competitions and if there was an angle to cover, somebody covered it. Later there would be other stories involving high profile beauties. While I got tired of the extensive coverage of Princess Diana’s death, she was a legitimate international figure. As for JFK Jr., he was more famous for who his parents were and the tragedies in their lives. I did have an interest in his death as it was related to flying and general aviation.
I never understood the hoopla over the Scott Petersen murder case. Remember him? His pregnant wife disappeared and was later found in the San Francisco Bay. He was having an affair. Bottom line: this was a local story that got national attention. Other than the fact it had a couple of twists, it was a murder case like what we have in Memphis (I’m sad to say) on a regular basis. But it happened during a slow news week. I will never truly understand why we gave it so much coverage on the local level in Memphis. It made as much sense as running a convenience store robbery from Australia (which we did more than once) because the video looked good. Big deal. Who really cared.
So now JonBenet Ramsey’s alledged killer is in custody ten years after the fact. Everybody who runs some kind of news is running the story. Even National Public Radio is running the story ad naseum. I’m proud the killer was caught. I’m even more proud of the fact that I don’t have to read it to somebody else.
The day that JonBenet Ramsey died, two tragedies occurred. An innocent little girl lost her life and never got the chance to grow up and realize her potential. And the standards of the news business pertaining to what constitutes news slipped several notches.
It was a sad day on both counts.

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14 Comments on “Only in America Can We Find a New Way to Beat an Old Story Into the Ground Again.”

  1. Senacle Says:

    Hi Joe,

    Hope all is well. Ask why Natalee Holloway became a national story — or Terry Schiavo, or the Runaway Bride — and you’ll find your answer as why JBR’s story blew up. It’s only skin (color) deep.


  2. Anonymous Says:

    Joe… If a murder story involves a white, affluent, blond, attractive, girl or woman, it’s going to be national news…

    It’s automatically jumped on but the national outlets.

    How much children have died in Memphis in the last five years that didn’t get a line in with AP?

    If Morgan Shaw in Mississippi came from a family in Germantown or Collierville, that story would have been all over CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Joe, I think Ed Murrow has been proven right. The little box has become nothing more than a few wires and lights. It no longer educates and enlightens. There is a plethora of tabloid shows that do beat the story into the ground and then we have the local news repeating the same thing.

    Something else is the gazillion watt radar issue. What do I care, as a farmer, if it rained on a cactus in the mojave 24 hours ago on radar? Better yet…a storm cloud in 3D hovering over a dead squirrel in Montana?

    Is there a local outlet for farm news anywhere? Dick Hawley used to do an extensive report on the noon news everyday. (Cookies come from elves and eggs come from egg fairies or the Easter Bunny!)

    Try asking a kid where a hamburger comes from.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    oh brother…

  5. bishop Says:


    I was at ABC/UPN Fall premiere party last night. They unveiled the new morning hosts. I wasn’t impressed. The other stations in my opinion have nothing to worry about. Terrence Batesd and I’m missing the other young lady name.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I do enjoy reading your observations…Seems to me it’s either Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry”, or sensationalism. What if there was no “new” news? Couldn’t the networks just be happy with “no news is good news” today??? Shock and horror to all mankind that there’s no dirty laundry???… But then, wouldn’t that be new news???

  7. Anonymous Says:

    the race card was tossed in on the first post…wow…so unexpected..(sigh)

  8. Anonymous Says:

    ahh, the race card.
    If you actually look at each case rather than jump on race you’ll notice something. each case you brought up had a unique/weird angle. little girl raped, strangled, beauty queen, parents suspects. teen disappears from fancy Aruban paradise. son of diplomat is main suspect. runaway bride mirrors the movie and is entertaining. Terry Schiavo case could change the laws of our country. unfortunately most of the deaths of children in memphis and even black adults is fairly run of the mill homicide. not to say it isn’t horrible but what makes it stand out more than any other killing? if a black beauty queen was killed on a ferris wheel at six flags that would get as much coverage as if it were a white girl. bad example but the truth..

  9. Senacle Says:

    Please spare me the “each case you brought up had a unique/weird angle” stuff.

    What’s run-of-the-mill about murder or life and death situations? Consider what you’ve said and you’ll see racial naivete with your comment.

    There are media studies about the role of race in what stories get national exposures and those that don’t. There is too much evidence to simply dismiss the connection between national exposure and race (as well as class) to explain why JBR got into the spotlight in the first place.

  10. Anonymous Says:


    throw the race argument away…it’s overused and now no one is listening any more…spend more productive time improving your race rather than blaming someone else for your shortcomings.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Miss ya on TV. I can’t blame ya for the exit. I have really become upset with Memphis over the past few years. Being a graduate of Christian Brothers High School in 68 and the College in 72, I have seen Memphis slowly become a haven for drug dealers, killers, elected folks who lie and steal and laugh in our faces. I left Shelby, Co. over 20 years ago and currently live just outside Jackson, Tn. I have watched everyone who can leave Memphis get out. My worst nightmare would be to own an expensive home in Mid Town. Who in their right mind would want to buy it. The current mayor is having children out of wedlock and eating lunch with his body guards in places that are being robbed. Then goes on the news and states “everyone in Memphis can expect to face the criminal element”. I say, No Mr. Mayor, everyone can be like Joe Larkins and me and say “pound it out your porthole, I’m out of here”. Best of luck to you Joe, you have earned it.
    Your Friend In West Tennessee

  12. bishop Says:


    Those are harsh statements that you’ve made. No one is exepmt from crime regardless who you are. Mayor Herenton didn’t asked for that place to be robbed. Crime is raging everywhere. Memphis is still not a bad place to live. Only if you live here, you can judge fairly.

  13. Joan Carr Says:

    Who would want to buy a big, expensive house in Midtown? Apparently a lot of folks, because the values of homes in Midtown have been rising every year. While there are negatives to living in Memphis, there are obviously a lot of positives, too. The main one being, this is where the jobs are. And because I don’t want to drive an hour or more to and from work, I live in Memphis. Yes, there’s crime and corrupt politicians, but I don’t think there’s a small town in America you could move to and be completely free of either. And by the way, your buddy Joe Larkins still lives in Memphis, so he must see something good about it.

  14. ChrisWoznitza Says:

    Hi ich bin Chriswab aus Bottrop. Viele Grüsse !!

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