Meredith Kercher's Vigil in Perugia
Amanda Knox, along with her erstwhile lover Raffaele Sollecito, finds herself a free woman after being acquitted of the murder of Meredith Kercher. Knox, who has achieved celebrity status with offers pouring in from from everything from publishing companies to pornography outlets, remains the subject of as much media chatter as ever she was before her acquittal. Knox, almost from the beginning, has been supported by a strident US media who have virtually campaigned for her release. The manner of this campaigning has taken the form of everything from reporting misinformation about the evidence against her and how the Italian legal system works, to engaging in smear against the prosecutors, police, police experts and Italian courts. Moreover, it has become clear that many sections of the US media have had an overly cosy relationship with the Knox family. During this time, the actual victim MEREDITH KERCHER was ignored, to the point of being virtually erased.
Now that Knox has been acquitted and is back home in Seattle, various elements of the US media are engaging in navel gazing and questioning the role of the US media throughout this case. This is a good thing as this certainly needs to be examined, but one has to question why this is only being done now Knox is home instead of during the previous four years when this was all taking place in a blatent manner in plain site. One can almost be left thinking that the primary goal was to push the 'Innocent Abroad' story in order to achieve Knox's release during which the ethos was to never criticise those fighting for the 'Home Team' (Team Knox) and now that it's a case of job done, the media can now engage in the somewhat cynical luxury of self-examination. If it wasn't important to them before, why is it suddenly so now?
The answer to these questions are complex. The fact is, objective serious reporting of a complex case is far more difficult and expensive then it is to engage in cheer-leading and fact-lite infotainment. Many media outlets have over the past few years, suffered considerable profit reductions with others still finding themselves in the red, resulting in budget constraints. It is far easier and cheaper to pick up the phone to the family of the accused and their supporters to get information then it is to actually put people on the ground to investigate the case first hand in far-flung Italy, to attend all the court hearings, to translate the court documents, interview those on the prosecution side or to hire neutral experts and translators. The result is many news articles that may as well have been written by the Knox family themselves. And of course, their daughter stood accused and they were denying the accusations against her, so they are going to say there is no evidence, that the evidence is false, that everyone is out to get her (Amanda Knox), that it's a miscarriage of justice and that Amanda Knox is a wonderful girl that walks on water. These things were faithfully reported, often as fact, by the media.
The other problem is the power of the written word, even if it is false. Many unfounded rumours, factual incorrections and outright untruths have been written about this case and are oft quoted and repeated, even when they have been later proven to be false, simply because they are in writing. These incorrections are often repeated by the media as a result of a complete failure of due diligence and fact checking. All too often, the errorsare elementary and even the most casual effort to fact check would have corrected them. As standard procedure, journalists have taken on face value the veracity of previous reports by other outlets and simply repeated them, so perpetuating the misinformation. Certainly, a major problem is that when reported 'facts' are shown to be in error, reporters and editors don't return to the article to update it and correct those errors, they are instead permitted to stand for eternity on the Web.
Moreover,, the influence of the million dollar PR campaign waged on Knox's behalf by Gogerty Marriot can not be underestimated. This PR firm, more suited to representing major corporations and political campaigns, was hired by the Knox family in January 2008 and has worked tirelessly on Knox's behalf ever since and continues to do so still. We had a case that was a dream for the media, it contained everything...an enchanting foreign city, young beautiful characters that came from multiple countries and included an American girl, sex, alcohol, drugs, violence and mystery. The media was desperate for access to the story, but being faced with a reticent, as well as distant, prosecution and a Kercher family that refused nearly all requests for interviews, the only point of access was the Knox family. The problem was, they had to get through David Marriott first and he laid down strict criteria for access which demanded no hard questions along with favourable headlines and stories. Those that did not follow the script were blacklisted and sidelined. Many media outlets went along with the blackmail. The process was covered by Barbie Nadeau of Newsweek and The Daily Beast here in her book Angel Face: The True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox and in her Daily Beast article How the Media Got Knox Wrong. Another strategy by Marriott was to use the media to smear the prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, as related both by Barbie Nadeau and Andrea Vogt. Vogt writes in Kercher Murder: Amanda's innocence divided Seattle :
"And shortly after the arrest, the girl's family hired David Knox Marriott, a specialist in public relations, to make more attractive the image of Amanda and at the same time, launch a campaign against the Italian authorities, primarily the prosecutor Giuliano Mignini."
In essence, the US media's stories on the case have been written by Knox's PR firm. It is little wonder, considering his import and influence, David Marriott was standing on the stage with the Knox and Mellas families, the only non-family/close friend member present, when Knox gave her homecoming speech in Seattle. Now, Knox is home and has a tarnished image, as can be seen in many recent media reports. For David Marriott the job is not over but has only just begun and now it's time for him to cash in on 'Brand Knox' with his murder marketing campaign, as all the media newtworks now courting Knox, as before, will have to go through him to get to her and he will be demanding his cut.
Happy days for Knox, her family, their supporters and David Marriott. Decidedly not so for Meredith Kercher, her family, for justice or truth though. The real world is not Hollywood, in the real world the bad guys often win.
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