ABCNews gets an “F” for their Amanda Knox reporting

American Jingoism needs to be fed, and this week ABC News supplies the chow.

ABC News begins misleading readers with the headline: “Amanda Knox’s Third Trial Starts With Plea for ‘Dignity of Truth’.” Nowhere in their headline would you understand that today’s proceedings were an appeal. The Italian Supreme Court threw out the last appellate court ruling, and kicked the case back to the appellate level.  It happens all the time in the United States. The American media loves to report on the acquittal, but within the Italian legal process that acquittal is gone- it was annulled.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have the original conviction for murder facing them, and this case is re-hearing of their appeals for their original guilty conviction.

It takes readers seventeen paragraphs before ABC News calls today’s proceedings an appeal. 17! And they put this on the second page. Does someone know what the reader drop-off is between the first page of a news report and the second page?

By the time you get to the seventeenth paragraph (17!), ABC News has actually already used some form of “appeals”  FIVE other times, and none of them referring to today’s proceedings.  In the very first paragraph, ABC News misdirects readers from understanding the later use of “appeal” by referring to the reading of a letter from the Kercher family: “Amanda Knox’s third murder trial began in an Italian courtroom today with a written appeal from the sister of Meredith Kercher.”  By referring to this as a “murder trial” separately from an “appeal”, ABC News sets up readers to believe this is something completely new. Or, as people from the US like to shout, “Double jeopardy, double jeopardy!”

Their reporting then goes on to talk about the appeals court: “an appeals court threw out the verdict in 2011.” Then, in talking about the Supreme Court ruling, ABC News NEVER MENTIONS that the acquittal was thrown out. Not a single mention of this significant fact. ABC reports on the Supreme Court’s criticism of the appeal sentence, but doesn’t mention it was thrown out. ABC News only reports the Supreme Court ruling asked a “new court” to do a “new trial,” without once mentioning that this sent the case back to the appellate level.

By this time, ABC News has led readers to believe that the acquittal was still valid, but, hey, you know, the Supreme Court just wanted someone else to try the case again.

ABC News digs this point in, by using a quote from Carlo Dalla Vedova, Knox’s attorney. He “asked the court if Knox “is being treated like other defendants… Is this constitutional that she be tried endlessly?”” (Oh, they forgot to mention- another defendant, Italian Raffaele Sollecito, is going through the EXACT SAME PROCESS alongside Knox.)

Because the acquittals ruling makes such an interesting story, ABC News revisits a finding of that ruling- a finding that was tossed out and has no value in the proceedings today. In discussing the ruling, ABC News uses a version of “appeals” for the fourth time and fifth time. They first discuss the finding of the “appeals court“, and in the last line of the paragraph they refer to the “appellate ruling.” However, the ABC still hasn’t said that this ruling was thrown out, overturning Knox & Sollectio’s acquittals.

ABC must have had at least two contributors to this article, because here, in the 17th paragraph, they suddenly turn completely and say “The appeal will be heard by a panel….”. ABC’s report NEVER CONNECTS today’s proceedings with this paragraph, leaving readers confused as to which appeal they are talking about.  ABC’s article ends without mentioning any reference to this appeals: “The next hearing in the retrial is set for this Friday.”

Despite those criticisms, I do have to point out a the positive portion of ABC’s report. They do devote a significant portion of the article to murder victim Meredith Kercher. they report on the letter and the statement from Meredith’s family that was sent to the court.

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