Where do you draw the line between journalism and exploitation?
I know where the Burlington Free Press draws it, after reading its downright grisly, torture-porny article on yesterday’s testimony in the Allen Prue murder trial. The article colorfully entitled:
Medical examiner: Jenkins looked ‘beat up’
The Freeploid was happy to report WCAX’s mistaken broadcast of a crime scene photo that showed the murder victim’s body. (Or, as the ever-sensitive Mike Donoghue put it in a Tweet, “naked body of slain teacher.”) Which was wrong, and WCAX News Director Anson Tebbetts fell all over himself apologizing for it.
So, it’s wrong to show a picture. But apparently it’s all right to publish every detail of Medical Examiner Stephen Shapiro’s testimony, including the following phrases:
“Jenkins’ bruised and marked body”
Shapiro “…told the jury about the marks left by different types of strangulation. Shapiro said he determined Jenkins’ official cause of death to be manual strangulation, meaning done by hand.”
Gee, thanks for that clarification. I wouldn’t have guessed.
‘She looked beat up,’ Shapiro said, later adding. ‘She did not do this to herself.’
“Shapiro used a laser pointer to highlight different scrapes and bruises… including six circular marks.”
This was followed by a thorough retelling of the effects of a stun gun on a human body:
Shapiro said the effect of a stun gun is not quite the same as a Taser, since the Taser almost instantaneously incapacitates the person. The stun gun, on the other hand, causes pain but does not incapacitate.
“A stun gun that’s pressed up against your body is more of a compliance weapon,” Shapiro said.
You can almost feel the burn, can’t you?
The first sentence of the story began with “Several loved ones of Melissa Jenkins inhaled sharply and covered their eyes…”
If they happen to read today’s Free Press, I think they’ll be inhaling sharply and covering their eyes all over again.
I know how the Free Press would defend itself. It’s a high-profile murder case, the trial is open, the testimony is fair game, and The People Have A Right To Know.
But do we have to know every detail? Or is this another case of Clickbait Uber Alles?
To me, this story crossed a line. And it makes the Freeploid’s sanctimony over WCAX seem downright hypocritical.