Throughout the Simpson trial, I stubbornly clung to the belief that news could still be divided into two basic categories - real and junk. The first category encompassed current events and issues of national and international importance, things like Bosnia, AIDS, health care, and tax reform. Into the second category would then fall all the fast food items that have little nutritional value but nonetheless hold a morbid fascination: Hugh Grant, sports, the Menendez Brothers, the supposed Whitewater scandal - and, of course, O.J. His acquittal, however, split the nation along racial lines. The significance of these divisions vindicated couch potatoes who'd spent the last year following this trial. It likewise exonerated the press' overkill of energy and resources. Those who protested the amount of attention that heretofore respected media outlets lavished on this event were the ones proved to be foolish by the surprising verdict. And remember, it was The New York Times not The Weekly World News that benefited from O.J.'s first interview as a free man.
But why split hairs? Examining their coverage of the trial, the stodgy East Coast daily and the sleazy Hollywood tabloid appear remarkably similar, as do Inside Edition and the CBS Evening News, Entertainment Weekly and Time. All now appear to be gunning for that same quick-and-easy audience attracted by this low-brow drek. If you need more proof, then try the following quiz. Just correctly answer which news organization provided the following quotes regarding O.J. and other recent newsmakers.
It's not that easy!
1. "`Hallelujah! I'm home!' With those three simple words, O.J. Simpson finally ended his 16-month nightmare."
A. Dave Kindred, The Sporting News
B. Peter Burt, The Star
C. Robert MacNeil, "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour"
D. Richard Jerome, People
2. "Worried police have been tailing Fred Goldsmith - the father of murder victim Ron Goldman - fearing he may try to kill O.J. Simpson."
A. Bill Carter, The New York Times
B. Hugh Pearson, Wall Street Journal
C. Linda Chavez, USA Today
D. Allan Butterfield, National Enquirer
3. "I felt whiter last week [after the Simpson verdict was announced] than I have ever felt before, and I didn't like it."
A. Sammy Allred, KVET-AM
B. Jonathan Alter, Newsweek
C. Rikki Lake, talk show host
D. A. M. Rosenthal, The New York Times
4. "The Simpson verdict was a sensational example of the conviction among African-Americans that crime in general is not so much a matter of wrongdoing as it is of prejudice."
A. Dave McNeely, Austin American-Statesman
B. Mortimar Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report
C. George Will, Newsweek
D. Rush Limbaugh, talk show host
5. "Despite all the official findings, polls show that two-thirds of Americans still remain unconvinced that Vince Foster killed himself."
A. Steve Plamann, National Enquirer
B. Eric Blumberg, KVET-AM
C. Frank Rich, The New York Times
D. Dan Rather, CBS News
6. "At this point, investigators only hope that Unabomber continues mailing manuscripts, not munitions. After 17 years in the shadows, he's showing signs of the trait most serial killers develop - `the urge to purge.'"
A. Bob Guccione, Penthouse
B. Jennifer Pearson, The Star
C. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker
D. Melinda Beck, Newsweek
7. "The Internet, of course, is more than a place to find pictures of people having sex with dogs. It's a vast marketplace of ideas - on politics, religion, science and technology."
A. Allan Butterfield, National Enquirer
B. Hannah Block, Time
C. Malcolm Balfour, The Star
D. Montel Williams, talk show host
8. "Colin Powell plans to win the war here at home the same way he trained soldiers for victory in the Gulf War - with the powerful force of family values."
A. Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times
B. Howard Kurtz, Washington Post
C. Larry Browne, National Examiner
D. Marc Cooper, The Nation
9. "Reportedly a devotee of topless bars and possessing a sense of humor that runs to farts and hemorrhoids, Hugh Grant is an Oxford grad with a distinctly raunchy underside."
A. Jean Seligmann, Newsweek
B. Hannah Block, Time
C. Russell Baker, The New York Times
D. Jess Cagle, Entertainment Weekly
10. "For years, John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s girlfriends tended to be fresh-faced and wholesome, `good girls' he could bring home to Mother."
A. Lisa Bain, Glamour
B. Martha Brant, Newsweek
C. Edward Klein, Vanity Fair
D. Tom Brokaw, NBC News
11. "In holding steadfast to his beliefs, Pope John Paul insists he must be guided by his conscience rather than the popularity - or unpopularity - of his views."
A. Bill Hewitt, People
B. Cokie Roberts, ABC News
C. Joe Frick, The Sun
D. Barbara Phillips, Wall Street Journal
12. "Scientists agree that AIDS won't be the last viral scourge, and that the message has finally registered with the masses."
A. Karen Schneider, People
B. Rich Lowry, National Review
C. Larry Haley, National Enquirer
D. Geoffrey Cowley, Newsweek
13. "Whenever she went out to restaurants, Selena laughed and conversed with people around her like she was having dinner with her family. If she saw an elderly woman dining alone, Selena often anonymously picked up the lady's tab."
A. James E. Garcia, Austin American-Statesman
B. Himilce Novas, National Enquirer
C. Jennifer Pearson, The Star
D. Neal Spelce, KEYE-TV
14. "Fearing the retribution she might face if acquitted, many people here think that Yolanda Saldivar will be much better off if convicted."
A. Mike Emanuel, KTBC-TV
B. Oprah Winfrey, Talk Show Host
C. Joe Frick, The Sun
D. John Burnet, National Public Radio
1-B; 2-D; 3-B; 4-B; 5-C; 6-D; 7-B; 8-C; 9-A; 10-B; 11-A; 12-D; 13-B; 14-A
12-14 Two extra conjugal visits for you
8-12 Potential "dream team" advisor
4-8 Hoping for a win on appeal
0-4 Sequestered another nine months