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Heartland Tabloid

Reported by Chrish - August 20, 2006 -

We are living in an age of media “tabloid” journalism, or as the saying goes, “if it bleeds it leads.” It goes without saying that Fox News loves the tabloid format, and now that the Lebanon war is off the front page, Jonbenet Ramsey is front and center. Whatever happened to the Natalie Holloway story?

John Kasich’s Heartland 8/19/06 led off with a short discussion of the cease fire in Lebanon during which Kasich said that he felt that, despite what is being said in "the media", Israel “really won” the war. He also managed to get in the perfunctory Fox anti-French comment when he remarked that they committed to sending far more troops to Lebanon than the number that is now going to be sent. He also managed to work in the obligatory Fox anti–UN comment when he said that it “drove me crazy when Kofi Annan condemned the Israeli attack.”

But after this attempt at a “fair and balanced” discussion, where neither guest retired Sergeant Major Steve Greer or Middle East advisor Aaron Miller felt the cease fire would hold, Kasich was on the tabloid track.

Most of the show was devoted to Jonbenet with Kasich interviewing a number of commentators with an interest in the case. When Kasich asked Colorado detective Bob Grant, a former Colorado prosecutor and advisor on the case, about certain “clues” (the strange Teddy Bear, the initials on the ransom note, and the position of the body), Mr. Grant said that the “smoking gun” would be the DNA and that no real conclusions can be drawn at the present time.

While not drawing a stated comparison to the Ramseys, Kasich interviewed Steve and Marlene Aisenberg, whose child was abducted from her crib 9 years ago and still has not been found. The couple was arrested on conspiracy to lie to authorities but was later cleared. In his introduction to the segment, the chyron read “umbrella of suspicion.”

(Comment: I, personally, suspect that Fox feels that the Ramseys haven’t been treated fairly and this segment was a subtle commentary on that)

Child sex trade in Thailand was a topic during a panel discussion about the case, with the above mentioned Bob Grant, Helen Morrison MD,forensic psychologist, and spokesperson Sharon Cohn from International Justice Mission. Kasich made the culturally insensitive comment, “what kind of culture would not recognize the sexual abuse of children?” (Comment: Sexual abuse and exploitation of children happens in American culture.) Kasich then had this to say when discussing obsession with lurid crimes: “We gotta be careful to not get caught up in the tabloid aspects of the case. It’s a turn-off and it’s not good.”

Comment: “Cognitive dissonance” is defined by Wikipedia is “the perception of incompatibility between two cognitions which can be defined as any element of knowledge, including attitude, emotion, belief, or behavor.” Kasich’s statement about not “getting caught up” in the sensationlist aspects of a crime were contradicted by the content of the show. In addition to the content, Kasich used prurient promotions for the segment. The preview for a discussion on the sex trade in Thailand (which was part of the overall discussion among Morrison, Grant, and Cohen) featured a shot of pole dancers. Throughout the show, Kasich showed shots of WWE wrestlers pummelling each other in the preview for something “the whole family needed to get involved in.” Turns out that the WWE is promoting reading activities for children who are wrestling fans – guess a shot of a wrestler reading a book just wasn’t hot enough! Kasich lead off the show with his spiel about Heartland bringing "mid-western sensibilities" to current issues. I would say it’s more about bringing Kasich’s own nonsense to issues that become tabloid trash.