[Update, Thursday May 13 10:00 AM]: The editorial pages of the Times and Free Press have weighed in on the verdict, and let me say I am underwhelmed by what I just read. Here we have seen day after day of utter prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, yet we have weak responses from both editorials.
The Times editorial is a bit better, although it only hints at what was obvious. We had attorneys and even prosecutors around the country following this trial, and as a prosecutor told one of my researchers, he absolutely was stunned at what he saw. Unfortunately, the same editorial pages that are willing to write hard-hitting stuff, as long as it involves something that is far away and pretty much irrelevant to our lives, but when it comes to a monstrous injustice in their backyards, well, suddenly they became very circumspect and cautious.
Give us a break, people. If you cannot recognize a travesty when it is occurring in front of you, then either you are blind or you are willfully neglectful. Take your pick.
Now that the trial of Tonya Craft is over, it is time to look at the performance of the local media and assess how they covered this event. There is the good, the bad, and, well, the really ugly.
If I needed to get a sense of what happened during the trial, I would read something by Dennis Norwood of The Chattanoogan. I don't know how he was able to get a near-transcript of the day's testimony, but the guy was accurate, really accurate.
Early in the trial, I had misjudged his work, thinking he was in the tank with the prosecutors, but realized I was wrong (and subsequently took down the critical post, as one has to admit mistakes). Dennis, who was at the News-Free Press in the sports department when I was working for the NFP, is a pro in every sense of the word, and was fast and reliable.
Then there was Channel 3, let by Melydia Clewell and Callie Starnes. These ladies were good, and I loved their Twitter feeds. Callie was cat-quick with her dispatches (Yeah, I know, "Tweets") and Melydia was not bad herself.
(Note to the paranoid prosecutors: Melydia was NOT my source of news during the trial. Sorry guys, but while I know her and she provided background for me before the trial began, I was not about to make her life more difficult by bugging her with questions. That Len Gregor called her out numerous times in that courtroom further made me lose respect for him, not that I really respected the guy in the first place.)
Channel 3's post-trial conviction was just outstanding. Keep in mind that they had to put this stuff together quickly, and I must admit that Melydia is a pro when it comes to something like this.
(My only complaint with 3 was the commentary by Ken Poston. There is no way that a guy whose career is dependent upon the good will of people like Brian House, Len Gregor, and Chris Arnt is going to be able to take a hard look at what happened. I'm sorry, but while he might be an able attorney and maybe he could have given good commentary on a trial elsewhere not in the geographical area, his conflict-of-interest problems clearly limited his effectiveness.)
One surprise entry in this category is the Catoosa News. The coverage was fair (and they did run an early article of mine), surprisingly so, given that it was a local paper supposedly intimidated by a "local power structure."
Instead, I found its coverage reliable and up-to-date. This was the biggest trial the paper had covered, and its staff definitely was up to the task, and Mark Andrews distinguished himself with good writing and insight.
The Times-Free Press started slowly, I thought, but by the end, I thought Joy Lukachick really grew a lot during this trial. The TFP was the main source for the blogs by Jacob Sullum at Reason (although he also used Dennis Norwoods's articles), and if Jacob, a friend of mine whom I greatly respect, believes the NFP was reliable, then who am I to disagree?
I also thought the NFP coverage post-trial was outstanding and the staff should be proud of their effort.
I don't know about you, but I thought that the coverage from the Today Show just sucked. Bringing in Wendy Murphy, who is about as reliable and truthful an analyst as Hitler was a good artist, just was wrong. As one who has followed Murphy's career for several years, I am not sure I ever have seen her get it right, and she was perhaps the loudest media voice (which made her really high-decible) in the chorus of falsifying information about the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case.
There was absolutely no perspective at all, and all the way to the end, Today presented the story to viewers as though the children accusers had been telling the same story from the beginning, making it a "she said, she said" case. That clearly was not true, but no one at Today seemed interested in even taking a cursory glance at the evidence.
Yeah, they had Tonya, David, and Dr. Lorandos on this morning, but that does not make up for having the execrable Murphy presenting her usual psychotic lies and half-truths. Once again, Today proves that it is not fit to cover anything but the fluffiest of news.
Yes, Channel 9 gets the award. Here is a station that from the start never deviated from its pro-prosecution stance, and the station even tried to claim that it was the defense that first used the word "conspiracy." These were reporters that were clueless all the way through, and I suspect the leadership at the station was absolutely shocked at the "not guilty" verdict.
These were reporters who had no clue that the behavior of the judge and prosecutors during the trial was out of line with what is supposed to be going on. I'm sure that Channel 9's reporters really believe that "He's on cross," or "He's on closing" really WAS what judges say when the other counsel objects.
I've already promised myself that when I visit the Scenic City this summer with my family, I will NEVER watch a news broadcast on Channel 9 again. If their people cannot even figure out what the heck is going on right in front of them, Lord save me from trying to interpret an event through 9's coverage.
Now, I did not follow Channel 12 at all, so I can't comment on what 12 did. This is not a criticism, but Callie and Melydia, not to mention Kevin West of WGOW-FM, kept me informed during the day, and Dennis Norwood and Joy Lukachick gave me what I needed after the day's proceedings had ended, so 12 was left out. Sorry guys.
What about future posts?
There is much to cover in the aftermath of this trial. First, I believe strongly that the rights of other people in that district have been obliterated and there are other innocent people convicted and in prison, based upon the bullying and dishonest prosecution of Arnt and Gregor, and the god-awful testimony of CAC "professionals."
We cannot forget those people, and I will do my best to open up those cases and examine them. There is nothing worse than an innocent person being convicted of a crime, and I sense that Arnt and Gregor enjoy nothing more than destroying the lives of other people. Bullies are like that.
There also will be ramifications to the conduct we have witnessed, and I will report on things as they happen, such as people filing complaints with the Georgia State Bar against the prosecutors. I will admit to having filed one formal complaint with the bar already, complete with documented irrefutable evidence of misconduct by Arnt.
So, while the trial has ended, I am not ready to pack up and leave. There is work to do.