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What is it about the JonBenet Ramsey case that so fascinates television viewers they will watch no matter how many segments in a row the cable networks decide to air? How can a single unsolved murder case from ten years ago be so important as to bump the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Lebanon conflict to the back burner?
Wednesday afternoon, MSNBC broke the story that an arrest was imminent in the JonBenet Ramsey case. It was huge news on all the networks by Wednesday night. Unless you don’t have a television set, you could not escape the case yesterday. Fox, MSNBC and CNN led and stayed with the case all day and night.
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I’ve been providing legal analysis on the case since the week of JonBenet’s murder. I also comment on other cases, so I’m used to the demands of breaking news coverage and the repetition. But Wednesday and Thursday was a whole different animal.
For the first time ever, my cellphone’s voicemail box filled up. That’s in addition to a dozen calls I was able to answer. All were from producers trying to book segments for Wednesday night and Thursday. It was the same for every Ramsey pundit in town.
Denver has many more Ramsey pundits than it has television studios. It was a game of musical chairs and studios all day Thursday. At 9News at 10:00 am, during the hour of District Attorney Mary Lacy’s press conference which I was covering for MSNBC, at various times you could see Norm Early, Tripp DeMuth, Scott Robinson and Larry Pozner doing their segments. At 2:30 pm at KRMA studio, I ran into Craig Silverman who had a segment right ahead of mine on the Tucker Carlson show. He would be doing the O’Reilly Factor and Anderson Cooper later from Colorado Studios while I would be doing Paula Zahn and Hannity and Colmes at MFG studio.
All of us began our rounds very early in the day. My first appearance was at MFG studio on MSNBC at 8:30 am, immediately followed by another at Court TV. After going to 9News and KRMA, I raced back to MFG where Trip Demuth and I did back to back segments for Court TV’s Catherine Crier. I finished after Zahn and Hannity at 7:30 pm. When I got home at 8:00pm and turned on the tv, Larry Pozner was on MSNBC doing yet another live show. In all, just on Thursday, I had been to three studios, did six shows on four networks. In between two shows I did an hourlong online live chat for the Washington Post.
Why did the networks go non-stop Ramsey yesterday? Why was every Denver pundit called to serve? Because of viewer demand. Viewers can’t get enough of the case. It’s a ratings spike. And ratings are the heart of the cable news business.