[JURIST] A new report by the American Progress Fund [advocacy website] has savaged US television news networks for covering trivial legal stories such as the "runaway bride" [CNN.com report; interview on coverage with CNN president Jonathan Klein; Columbia Journalism Review blog post] and the Michael Jackson trial [CNN.com special report] at the expense of important matters such as the genocide allegedly taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan [CNN.com International special report], where a two-year conflict has killed 180,000 people and displaced some 2 million refugees. According to the study [overview and methodology], which looked at recent output from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, the major news networks devoted 126 news segments to the Sudan situation in June 2005, but in the same month devoted 485 segments (four times as many) to the Georgia "runaway bride" case and an overwhelming 6248 segments (50 times as many) to the Michael Jackson trial. The study also noted that in the same month another popular news story about the engagement of actor actor Tom Cruise to actress Katie Holme got 12 times more coverage than the Darfur crisis. BeAWitness.org, a partnership between the American Progress Action Fund and the Genocide Intervention Fund [advocacy website], is urging Americans to press major television networks to "be a witness" to genocide so that people and governments will be informed and inclined to act to stop it. Media critics have suggested that stories like the "runaway bride" in particular testify not to correct standards of civically-responsible journalism, but rather to the mass media need to get high ratings and "pay the bills" [Atlanta Journal Constitution report]. Civilrights.org has more.
For the record, here is the balance of legal news stories reported by JURIST's Paper Chase over the same month as the APF survey:
Runaway bride - 0
Michael Jackson trial - 1
Sudan/Darfur crisis - 29 [for highlights, see JURIST's Darfur news archive]