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Column - It's enough to make you want to scream

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If I hear that scream one more time, I myself am going to scream.

Just about every time I turned on TV last week to catch up on the news, I heard the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin recording, and, sure enough, once again, I heard that scream. Again and again. Is it Martin's scream? Is it Zimmerman's scream? You'd think that's the most pressing question since "Will the glove fit O.J.?"

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Why are we supposed to care about these trials? By that, I mean "care about" them to the point of 'round-the-clock coverage. Network hotshots proudly call it "gavel-to-gavel coverage." I call it network overkill.

Zimmerman, a wannabe cop, followed and killed a black teen who was walking in a neighborhood while nibbling on Skittles. Zimmerman provoked the confrontation; he is guilty. That's my opinion; the jury decided otherwise. The crime happened in Florida, where they have a "Stand Your Ground" law, one of the most ill-advised laws ever passed, under which if you feel threatened by somebody, just shoot and kill and you'll go free. I wonder how many innocent people were set up, blown away, and then their killers walked.

Yes, Stand Your Ground has relevance for us all, granted, but this trial could have been covered for our enlightenment with 15-minute news summaries each day.

The live coverage was bad enough. What's worse is that every evening, long after the trial was recessed, we were subjected to a line-up of legal experts who commented ad nauseam on every utterance and gesture in the trial.

Polls indicate Americans are woefully uninformed about current issues, a sad fact when this country's destiny depends upon well-informed voters. With a debased culture, can we expect anything better? And part of that crap culture is an obsession with junk, and, I hasten to add, televised trials. They're nothing but "reality" soap operas. Recent examples of this gavel-to-gavel mania include the Michael Jackson doctor trial, the Jodi Arias trial, the "Tot Mom" trial and the Scott Peterson trial. All of them are examples of morbid voyeurism.

Who, I wonder, can sit all day and watch these trials? Who would want to? I also want to know the ratings for this coverage. If the ratings are high, this country is heading for low.

Last Friday afternoon, I knew the jury would be deliberating. Dare I turn on the TV to see if there is any new news? I hit the remote. And there, go figure, the obsession continued in full fever, with some commentator giving extensive analyses of the backgrounds of each of the six women jurors. Will it never end?

Apparently not. Saturday evening, I came home and turned on the TV to see some news. There, on the screen was a shot of the courthouse exterior at dusk, its windows illuminated. The courthouse scene was accompanied by thumping suspense-crisis network music. Then there was more babbling about the jury still deliberating.

Later Saturday, the verdict (outrageous, in my opinion) was delivered. Now we'll have to endure the endless post-trial analyses.

I'm tempted to beg my readers to write all these TV networks to tell them "enough is enough!" But I have done that so many times, even as I knew I might as well be sending the letters to a distant planet. There are many people I know who abhor saturation courtroom coverage, so I suppose I'm preaching to the choir. But wouldn't it be nice, so nice, if networks would stop this crap? Or at least put them all on what they could call "The Trial Channel."

• • •

Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at dennisdalman@jetup.net.

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