Episode 46: Tragedy Porn (We Stole This Title)


Nick: Hello everyone. This is Nick.


Jessa: And this is Jessa.


Nick: And this is the latest episode of the Getting Off Podcast.


Jessa: So this is our quickie little policy episode, and also our way to introduce the next case that we’re going to be doing. And the next case that we’re doing has been selected for a couple of reasons. First of all, our dear friend, Chelsea Cox, writer and creator of the wonderful hit audio drama Deliberations, which, if you’re not listening to that yet, you should be. Season 2 just started, had mentioned that this case held a particular interest for her, so this is sort of our homage to you, Chelsea. Additionally, this is a case that, while it was happening, Nick and I talked a lot about and had a lot of opinions about, though our opinions weren’t particularly illuminating by way of the law.


Nick: Right.


Jessa: What we had opinions about was something a little bit different. We had opinions about the way the press handled it.


Nick: Sure did. And it certainly isn’t the only case that we’ve had strong opinions about how the media has covered it, but I think it’s the reason we’ve chosen it in addition to it being one of Chelsea’s favorites, is that it’s really a great example, maybe the best example we can think of of the problems in this area. So, you know, here, we’re gonna talk about, we’re gonna sort of introduce this notion about how the media sometimes covers criminal law, and we’re gonna examine that more in-depth in this next case that we’re gonna do this weekend.


Jessa: Which, in case you guys haven’t figured it out from listening to the Deliberations interview that we did with Chelsea, I think we talked about it there. I don’t remember which one it came up in, but it came up, so next case, Casey Anthony. So, you guys have heard all of our stay in the lane conversation. We have talked a lot about what responsibilities we think the press has in terms of the presumption of innocence, in terms of accurate reporting, in terms of trying to find truth and report things accurately, as well as sort of, what that means in the larger context, I think, of the world. And the way that we consume news and what we define as news, what we define as entertainment, and the lines and how they get blurred in between.


Nick: Right. And it is important to talk about staying in your lane in this context. The media obviously has a different job than lawyers do or than different participants in the criminal justice system do. We’re certainly not above telling other people how to do their jobs, so we'll probably offer plenty of thoughts on that.


Jessa: I think we probably will.


Nick: And, you know, there’s also different brands of journalism and I think you were alluding to that. You know. There’s serious journalism. There’s something that you’re gonna, a phrase that you’re about to hear us use called tragedy porn and there’s also just entertainment. And depending on what kind of coverage you’re talking about, people might do a better job of what we think they’re staying in the lane or what we think their lane is and staying in it. Sometimes they do a very poor job of staying in their lane. Look. We are, we get frustrated here locally sometimes over local news media coverage of cases but that, and we’ll talk about that. But that is a certain type of frustration because it is true that on local criminal cases of interest, really on the local level, all they oftentimes have to go off of, especially in the beginning, is public documents, which initially is gonna be the criminal complaint, so the media’s just gonna repeat what’s in the criminal complaint, which of course is a prosecutor’s version, the government’s version of what may have happened. But then that goes out to the media and that’s what everyone reads and takes in as facts. So that’s one set of challenges. What we’re gonna talk about with Casey Anthony is a whole other level.


Jessa: Particularly because as listeners who have been with us for a while know, typically the cases we choose involve people who were public figures of some type and that’s how we end up with all of the primary source documents that we try and seek out. So, you know, your average, Nick and I have had dozens of trials. You can’t go online and find the transcripts, the full complete transcripts of the vast majority of trials we’ve done. There are a couple cases out there that were our high profile cases that you can find some of those documents, and some video of testimony. But by and large, when just your ordinary citizen is charged with a crime, even a very serious crime, there might be an initial blurb in a newspaper about that. Sometimes reporters sort of put the police scanner into, particularly really smaller local newspaper outlets. They’ll run things like that. But that’s really it. And there’s been this shift in the way that we handle crime reporting that all of a sudden, it’s not just a circus for public figures anymore. It’s become possible for us to see this same level of paparazzi and frenzy about cases relating to ordinary people and ordinary tragedies and ordinary crimes. And we think that there are things to be said about that.


Nick: Right. And one of the things we’ll probably talk about is, how come?


Jessa: Yeah.


Nick: Like. Why does one case attract beaucoup media attention all over the place, all over cable and all over the place, when another does not? But mostly what we’re gonna talk about or a lot of what we’re gonna talk about is the effect of all this. And it’s not good.


Jessa: Oh. No.


Nick: Not good.


Jessa: Spoiler alert.


Nick: It’s bad.


Jessa: It’s not good. It’s not, what’s the word I’m looking for? Good.


Nick: At least in local coverage, when all they’re able to do is pick up the criminal complaint and sort of repeat in a newspaper or in a newspaper’s website or in a newspaper's app with local media app, the local TV app, with the criminal complaint, at least they are.. I mean. That, to me, has some measure of news value to it, at least potentially. To report on the fact that a person has been charged with presumably a relatively serious crime, and what the basic allegations are.


Jessa: Sure. Because the fact that a crime, particularly a serious crime, is alleged to have occurred in a community is newsworthy. I don’t think either of us dispute that.


Nick: No. It clearly is newsworthy. Its newsworthiness is probably limited to the local area, most of the time. But repeating, publishing that information and publishing the basic allegations, especially if the news organization is diligent about pointing out these are allegations and not facts and they haven’t been subject to any sort of scrutiny yet. That’s not problematic. It’s slightly problematic but that’s just the way, it’s not problematic in a systemic way. It’s just a problem that that’s the way the world works. And so, you know, everyone needs to hold onto their horses and wait to form an opinion until a whole lot more information comes out. That’s legitimate news reporting. Nancy Grace is not legitimate news reporting.


Jessa: No!


Nick: That’s fake.


Jessa: I reject her.


Nick: Right. That’s tragedy porn. That’s idiot porn.


Jessa: And, you know, the whole reason that cameras came to be in courtrooms, in theory, is actually to protect the accused because you have a constitutional right to a public trial. And there are very good reasons for that. Because if we can conduct justice in secret, there’s no ability for anyone to check that process.


Nick: Right.


Jessa: We need to have public justice so that we all understand what goes on and so that if there is corruption or if there are problems, those can be identified and called out and investigated and fixed.


Nick: And judges are public officials. District Attorney’s are public officials.


Jessa: In many states, they’re elected.


Nick: You’re right. Generally, the DA or the prosecuting attorney or the state’s attorney, whatever they may call it in your location, typically the head of that office is an elected person. So those people absolutely need to be, their job duties and their functions need to be open to public scrutiny. Same with judges. And what you’re referring to is, we really need to be able to watch the process happen to know if it’s fair or not.


Jessa: Absolutely. Because the shrouding of a tribunal in secrecy..


Nick: Outside of FISA court, this stuff happens in public. And so as a result, what stems from that is courtrooms are public places. And because courtrooms are public places, cameras are allowed into them.


Jessa: Absolutely. And it’s not that that we have the complaint about.


Nick: No. That’s all fine. And in fact, I think putting trials on TV, I’ve got no beef with that. I think that’s actually great.


Jessa: And I think having legal experts to explain some of the complicated issues in trials can be helpful, if those people, like us. We’re helpful. We’re making such ridiculous gestures right now. I wish you guys could see it. We’re Nick and Jessa.


Nick: We’re here to help.


Jessa: We’re here to help. We are not from the government, so we are here to help.


Nick: But, it’s fine if you had expert legal commentary that actually seeks to explain esoteric legal proceedings or concepts. It’s totally fine. And in fact, I think that’s great. What’s not fine is otherwise, talented experienced legal professionals going on programs that are actually not intended to educate anybody or to offer any real insight. But instead are just forums for people to yell at each other or for some muppet host to make weird faces and scream at the camera about how bad somebody is. That’s not helping anyone.


Jessa: No. That helps no one.


Nick: That’s like the TV version of the National Enquirer.


Jessa: That is the least charming garbage person you can find.


Nick: I refute that person even being a garbage person. They can be some separate category.


Jessa: They’re some bad person. Garbage people are charming. Alright. So we, in doing this, want to play you a clip that, from my research, I am playing consistent with the Fair Use Act because we are going to use this to comment upon and offer sort of scholarly discussion or otherwise noteworthy, and you know, discussion. This is not just us stealing it for no reason. We’re gonna play you about eight minutes of an episode appropriately titled “Tragedy Porn”. And that was written by Aaron Sorkin. That is an episode of a show called The Newsroom that ran on HBO for three seasons.


Nick: Two and a half. There was a third season. It was just shorter.


Jessa: As you guys who are long time listeners. I love that I say “long time”. We’ve been doing this podcast for, like, 75 days. But whatever. For those of you that have listened for the whole banana, you know that Aaron Sorkin is one of my favorite writers and that I reference him fairly ubiquitously.


Nick: This show ran from 2012 to 2014. I think this is one of the greatest shows of all time. I love this show.


Jessa: I love this show, too. I particularly loved the first season and out of all of it, this episode had me, like, standing ovation, clapping. So we’re gonna play you about eight minutes of two portions of the tragedy porn episode, then we’re gonna talk a little bit about that. And then we’ll do some housekeeping and sign off. So without further ado, here is the Newsroom on Casey Anthony.


*Newsroom audio*


Jessa: Alright. So.


Nick: That was special.


Jessa: That’s what we want to talk about while we talk about Casey Anthony. We also want to talk about whether or not the jury got that verdict right. It’s one of the most controversial verdicts of recent times that I could think of. And had some pretty controversial lawyers involved, as well.


Nick: Yeah. A little bit on both sides.


Jessa: So, you know, I gotta tell ya, I think we’re actually gonna have fun doing this.


Nick: I mean, I’m gonna have fun doing that.


Jessa: Well, yeah, cause you and I feel the same way about that. I think this is just gonna be like Casey Anthony: righteous indignation edition.


Nick: It’s like what we talk about, when we talk about Casey Anthony. It’s like Raymond Carver.


Jessa: Yes. That’s exactly it. This podcast is exactly like Raymond Carver. That’s where I’m calling from. That was a little Raymond Carver joke.


Nick: Well played.


Jessa: So. That’s what’s coming up from us on Sunday. In the meantime, a few things. We, number one, have a little shoutout we want to give Heather from the Nature versus Narcissism podcast. Very sweetly sent us some totally kick ass stickers with their logo on it. One for me and one for Nick. I’m putting it on my computer. Super excited about it. Thank you. When we get stickers, we will return that favor. We don’t have stickers yet but we do have other merchandise. And we’d like to remind everyone that if you are a fan of staying in your lane, picking ponies, or being a garbage person, you can buy tank tops, t-shirts, or tote bags that show your pride in that. And a portion of the proceeds are going to go to help people who have been recently released from prison reintegrate into society. You can find us on Etsy. That’s E-T-S-Y dot com. And that shop’s name is Getting Off Pod. Coincidentally, or not so much coincidentally, you can also follow us on pretty much every social media that exists at the Getting Off Pod handle. So Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Facebook group is the Getting Off Podcast group. And please take a few minutes to rate us on the Apple Podcast app or on any other app that you use to listen to your podcasts. That helps us get more listeners. And that’s fun.


Nick: That’s super fun.


Jessa: So we are very excited to talk to you guys this weekend. In the meantime, go back. We did a couple extra episodes, even for us, on Jordan Johnson last Sunday.


Nick: Sunday got a little long.


Jessa: Yeah. Sunday, which I was thinking about it. This is a sidebar. But you know, I don’t know that we actually made it entirely clear that number one: he was acquitted. It was, like, midnight by the time we finished.


Nick: Jordan Johnson was acquitted. He was found not guilty. And actually, hold on.




Nick: There are a few things that I think we probably didn’t cover. Number one: yeah. He was acquitted. Verdict: pretty important. Number two: he was readmitted to the University of Montana after having been expelled. He was reinstated to the football team after having been kicked off it. So after one year and one season away from the football team, he was back on the team, leading them as a quarterback, which, if anybody, I keep saying it. You gotta get on the Facebook group.


Jessa: I love the Facebook group.


Nick: You saw the extremely special Youtube video, we want you back, Jordy Johnson, that Jessa put up there, which was from Griz Nation welcoming him back or summoning him back to the team. But that’s not the only special thing that happened.


Jessa: We also forgot to mention that he sued the University of Montana.


Nick: So after, under opaque mysterious circumstances, having his expulsion overturned by the Secretary of Education for the state of Montana, which Jon Krakauer sued over the course of three years to try to find out how that went down, but after that happened, and after he was acquitted, he sued the University of Montana over that entire process, and wound up settling with them for about a quarter of a million dollars. So out of all of that, he got back in the school. He got his expulsion overturned in this most extensive appeals process, about a type of case I’ve never heard of, got back on the football team, was acquitted and actually walked away, I mean. His lawyer fees..


Jessa: Were probably not unsubstantial.


Nick: He settled with the University of Montana over what he considered was a lack of due process in his Title IX case to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars.


Jessa: Right. And we forgot to tell you that because by the time we finished recording, it was after midnight and we had had two bottles of wine. So that’s what’s up there. Sorry about that. There’s your addendum.


Nick: Important details.


Jessa: Yes. Important details. Like the verdict. You know. So anyway, thank you for listening, you guys. We are excited to talk to you this weekend. This has been our little quickie. I’m Jessa.


Nick: I’m Nick and we’ll see you guys this weekend.


Jessa: Bye.