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O.J. Simpson murder trial: celebrity and sports reporting clash

Posted by: | October 1, 2009 | No Comment |

Prior to the year 1994, people thought of O.J. Simpson as a national celebrity, movie star, and Hall of Fame NFL running back.  There was no thought in anybody’s mind that a year later this person, who was very popular in the media, would be in a speed chase running away from cops in a white Ford Bronco. According to Chapter 1 and 5 of Michael Stephens’ “A History of News,” this event brought everyone, including the media, together.

OJ Simpson mugshot after car chase

OJ Simpson mugshot after car chase

For those who do not know the background of Simpson, he was a star halfback for the Buffalo Bills in the 1970s and coined the nickname “juice,” for his power on the football field.  He set NFL records and is still known as one of the best football players of all time.  He also had a decent movie career, appearing on the show “Roots” and “The Naked Gun” trilogies, showing where celebrity and sports reporting come together.

O.J. drove on the freeway of Los Angeles in 1994 with the cops chasing him and most of America watching him on TV.  There was so much media coverage of this event that Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Knicks and Rockets on NBC had to be interrupted because of the highway chase.

At the time, Simpson had been an NFL analyst on NBC.  Bob Costas, who worked with Simpson as a broadcaster and anchored the NBA Finals had this to say about Simpson: “it’s not just tragic but now surreal.”

We all know that Simpson was controversially acquitted from murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman.  This trial was known as “the trial of the century,” gaining even more celebrity status for Simpson.

The famous white Ford Bronco being chased by police

The famous white Ford Bronco being chased by police

The car chase and trial are known as one of the most watched events in American television history.  Every news channel, including ESPN, had coverage of the trial.  More than half of America tuned into the trial to find the verdict.

While this trial was going on, it was almost as if everything else in the world was being forgotten.  According to an ABC News poll, 9 out of 10 viewers believed that journalists spent too much time on this particular case.  Stations like NBC, CBS, and even ESPN reported on the same exact thing.

This is how the celebrity media and sports media clashed as a former sports star and actor was being convicted of murder.  It is not everyday where you see every channel reporting on the same thing.

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