Woodward Case: Trial by TV - How coverage of the trial compares to OJ

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The Independent Online
American journalists are calling the Louise Woodward case "Daughter of OJ" because of its domination of the media.

On both sides of the Atlantic television, radio and newspapers reacted to the au pair's release by tearing up their programme schedules and news pages and devoting all of their energies to the case over the past two days.

Yesterday all of America's national breakfast shows devoted their entire programmes to the case, using experts and talking heads to fill out their coverage.

Although some newspapers were unsure about freeing the 19-year-old so soon, the tabloid Boston Herald summed the majority feeling across America with its punning headline "Saved by Zobel".

It had only been a big story in Boston until the moment when Woodward was convicted of second degree murder. Her weeping at the guilty verdict made it a truly national story.

The usually aloof star evening news anchors from New York and Washington moved to Boston to await the judge's verdict and were forced to kill time on air as he took a recess before announcing the sentence. The networks dropped the usual fare of afternoon soaps and advertising to stay with an empty court room.

After the overkill of the OJ Simpson trial the American public had lost some of its appetite for courtroom dramas. Even the Oklahoma bombing trial of Timothy McVeigh failed to spark the American public's interest like the Woodward case.

However, American journalists are now feeling frustrated that the British media is making the running on the story.

Woodward's parents, Gary and Sue, spent much of the trial with two producers from Carlton Television's The Big Story, which ran a sympathetic documentary about their daughter before the case started. The two producers act like bodyguards, shielding the Woodwards from photographers, and another documentary is expected soon.

American journalists are also frustrated because the deep pockets of the Daily Mail, Hello! magazine or the Sun are likely to buy up access to the family.

This hasn't stopped the rest of the British media leaping into the story head first. Independent Local Radio stations bought up news packages from ITN yesterday that re-played the entire tale in key soundbites.

For Sky News the trial has been what the Gulf War was for CNN. The news channel is normally seen by at most 70,000 viewers. On Monday night, as the sentence was passed it is estimated that 1.7 million people were watching. It is hardly surprising that for the past two days Sky has played little else but "Daughter of OJ".

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