We talk about how the media love to sensationalize their stories to draw in the audience. They take the basic information, throw it into a virtual centrifuge to separate out the juicy details. Then, they take those details, no matter how small and insignificant, and blow them up to the size of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon.
In the ongoing Jodi Arias’ story, there is glaring evidence that ABC is guilty of gratuitous sensationalism. It has over-stepped the mark and has mislead its audiences. ABC has crossed the line dividing responsible journalism with sensationalized non-sense.
One of ABC’s headlines reads:
“Jodi Arias Testifies She Tried Wicca, Buddhism With Boyfriends”
The associated 5:29 video report never mentions the word Wicca or Buddhism. No where! The video had nothing to do with Wicca or Buddhism. Why use this as the headline? Sensationalism!
.. Arias testified earlier about a flurry of boyfriends she had before Alexander, and how she followed them into exploring a string of religions including witchcraft, Buddhism, Hinduism before eventually converting to Mormonism. Her odyssey through boyfriends and the spiritual world included a five-year period from age 18 through age 22 when Arias said she became very interested in fundamentalist Christianity, Wicca, Buddhism, and Hinduism, all of which she explored as she dated men who practiced those beliefs…
So ABC wasn’t lying with the video headline. However, the associated video did not include any of the above or similar testimony.
ABC also reported that Arias said, “He [a boyfriend] was studying Wicca, and I didn’t practice it myself, but he had practiced it and had moved onto studying eastern mysticism and Buddhism.” She testified to never having even practiced Wicca or Buddhism. Furthermore, when the crime happened, Arias was a devout Mormon.
It doesn’t matter what Arias was practicing. However, it does matter what ABC is practicing – irresponsible journalism. By juxtaposing “culturally loaded” words (Wicca) with a graphic story, ABC opens the door for readers to make assumptions and conclusions based on common pre-conceived social biases. The general public will see Wicca alongside the Arias story and, through that bias, make assumptions on her motivations. In addition, it perpetuates the negative stereotypes associated with Wicca
In all fairness, ABC is not only media outlet that’s been playing the witchcraft card. On HLN (Headlines News), Nancy Grace posted a video interview with Zion Lovingier, the friend of the victim, called “Did Jodi Arias practice Witchcraft?” During the interview, Grace gets stuck on Lovingier’s comment, “Jodi was into energies.” The interview grinds to a ridiculous halt with Grace repeatedly asking the question, “What does that mean?”
It is clear that Grace is trying to lead Lovingier into a witchcraft discussion. When she gets him there, she makes the irresponsible statement, “That would standout in my mind, if someone was into witchcraft.” She calls Wicca “creepy.” Grace’s line of questioning openly suggests that the practice of Wicca should be a marker as to sanity of the practitioner. If ABC’s report was correct, Arias herself said that she never practiced Wicca. Even if she did, this was again irresponsible, journalistic tactics whose sole purpose was to attract an audience through sensationalism.
Fortunately, Lovingier is very resistant and seems to want to move away from the Wicca subject. He finally says, “Jodi’s issues run much deeper than Wicca.” This closes down Grace’s line of questioning and they move-on. Hallelujah!
Over the past week, there has been much less media banter centered around Arias religious escapades. That, at least, is good news for Wicca. I hope that it continues in that direction and the media find something else with which to color their stories.