North Carolina Marine(s)

A few days ago a student told me he was going crazy about the coverage of the Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean and his role in the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach. (see series of articles: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/crime_safety/laurean/) It has been covered in the national media and a cursory (admittedly non scientific) search shows it has been mentioned in many other news sources.

This is a tragic story, but is it worth all the coverage?

Some years back, another student did a research project on media coverage of the Scott and Lacey Peterson murder case. She compared coverage of the Petersons to coverage of other husbands/boyfriends who were on trial for murdering girlfriends/wives who were pregnant. She found a few other similar cases which didn’t get near the amount of coverage the that Scott Peterson received.

Why not? She came up with some hypotheses. The cynical answer is the others weren’t beautiful/handsome enough, wealthy enough or had the “right” skin color (in the student project, one of the other cases was a Latino couple and the other couple was very poor). A more pragmatic answer from a journalist’s point of view might include lack of resources and time or lack of knowledge about the incident (no journalist knows everything). Another might be location.

But, the Marine story IS news in North Carolina. Good old proximity news value. And there are elements of the story (albeit some admittedly sensational ones) that make for a good story.

On a personal note: a couple of years ago, a friend’s wife was murdered in their home in a fairly grisly manner. She was a couple of months pregnant. The perpetrator has not been caught. Some believe that continued media coverage (like we are seeing in this instance with the Marines), might have helped bring the killer to justice. But after only a few stories, nothing more was reported.

It is not a journalist’s place to respond to “requests” for coverage, I know that. It is a journalist’s job to report the news (truth?). But when is the cutoff point? When is it too much coverage? When is it not enough?

Thoughts?

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