The OJ Overload: Media Turns Back Clock to 1994

The live TV coverage of the former football star’s Nevada parole hearing was “astonishing,” says criminologist James Alan Fox. What if the media gave that much time and attention to important criminal justice stories, like the broken parole system?

What if the media gave as much attention to the country’s broken parole systems as it lavished on O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing Thursday in Nevada? Writing in USA today, Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox says, “What is quite astonishing is that the hearing and the board’s quick decision (granting parole) were broadcast on every major television network, including sports-oriented ESPN…If you didn’t know better, it would seem, given the pervasive attention, that we were swearing in a new president of the United States, not gawking at a convicted felon.”

It is no wonder that Americans are ill-informed about fundamental issues of their criminal justice system, Fox writes, since “the level of overexposure rings more of entertainment than news.” He concludes, “There is an important line beyond which the news coverage of criminals can become excessive and offensive. That line was crossed today.”