Crime pays, but it’s the media making bank
A Columbus criminal attorney’s take on the media vacuum cleaner
The media abhors a vacuum. That’s the old saying. But what’s it really mean? Pretty simple, actually. If something has public interest, the public will crave information, and the media outlets will be there to deliver. If they don’t have anything to report, they will fill the empty space — the vacuum — with something.
So what’s this have to do with crime, lawyers, and criminal defense? Everything. The public loves crime. It’s like a bad train crash — they can’t look away. It wasn’t that long ago that townspeople gathered in the public square to watch an execution. The media knows this, and they’re ready, always, to capitalize. There’s another old saying that applies: If it bleeds, it leads. Crime sells papers, in other words.
The courtroom experience is, from the public’s perception, better than any play or soap opera. Before TV, folks would sit in the balconies of courtrooms and watch the real-life crime drama unfold before their eyes. Recall the scene depicted in To Kill a Mockingbird? That was real life.
Now, with mass media, TV, internet, and even social media, crime is big news and big dollars. Think OJ. Think Phil Spector, Casey Anthony, and the Menendez brothers. More recently, recall the circus surrounding Trayvon Martin.
Why you need a Columbus criminal attorney who can handle the media
Sometimes it’s immediately clear why a particular case is all over the news. Often, the people involved are major celebrities (see: Lindsay Lohan and OJ).
Usually, though, it’s hard to predict when a case might generate media (and, thus, the public’s) interest. Who would have thought the Trayvon Martin case would become such a big deal? Race relations are always on the cusp of the media vacuum, but we’ve defended many cases with potential racial undertones that don’t get any attention.
The point here is simple. Most cases that make the media, particularly the local media, don’t involve celebrities. They don’t involve anyone famous at all. But somehow they made the blotter, and then the paper, and then local news, and even, possibly, the national news.
From a criminal defense attorney standpoint, it should be all the same. A case is a case is a case is a case. But it’s not. It takes experience to deal with the media. It takes a certain moxie to give an interview to the news, provide satisfactory information, but give up nothing detrimental to the client. Or, better yet, advance your client’s case without violating rules of ethics and professionalism.
Here’s where it matters: It’s crucial to get a criminal defense attorney who not only has the right qualifications and reputation to handle the case, but someone who also has experience in the media.
What should you do?
Meet with your attorney. Ask questions about their experience with media cases. Good attorneys will often have media contacts. They can reach out to reporters they work with regularly. This isn’t a bad thing. The media can be your ally, even in a nasty case.
Don’t get “cleaned” by the media. Find an attorney who can artfully fill the media vacuum. Because after almost 20 years of handling high-profile cases, one thing is clear to us — the media vacuum will fill itself either way.