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JonBenet Ramsey's Day

Or really, it's her long-suffering family's day. This second-grade teacher, John Mark Karr, has admitted to the killing, ending what has to be one of the most poorly handled murders -- by both the press and police -- in the history of the United States. The supermarket tabloids, in particular, covered the little beauty queen's death in a heinous way. The National Enquirer, Star, etc. published in-depth stories pointing the finger at the father, mother, and son. At the same time, they were breaking legitimate news on the case, giving some credence to the completely irresponsible crap they were reporting. It helped create a national confusion about the case that persisted for ten years.

Until today. It looks like they got the guy -- Karr has told police he accidentally killed JonBenet during a botched kidnapping. And that haunting face is back on the front pages, the little girl with the makeup-induced adult beauty, the visage that captured the country and apparently inspired one sick SOB to take her life. It's no doubt the biggest arrest story in a decade.

A Lot of Junk In the Trunk

And unfortunately the Sun-Sentinel fell short. Somehow the editors there didn't recognize that this was a story that needed to be on the front page. The Miami Herald led with the thing. The Palm Beach Post prominently displayed the story on the top of the right-hand rail. I don't think there was a large metropolitan daily in the country that didn't get it on the front. Except the Sentinel, which only managed to run a photo of the girl at the bottom of its huge bottom-drawer. The story ran, lamely, on page 3.

To be fair, the Sentinel editors don't have much to work with. With that giant bottom drawer, which is edging up perilously close to the fold, there's little room for stories on the front page. They have three stories on there a day and the rest is the giant cluttered drawer. Most newspapers, including the Herald and Post, run five or more. It's a pathetic example of McNews. Today, there's a story about the beginning of alligator hunting season, one on oil drilling, and one on that Christian school that killed that kid. It's more evidence that the Sentinel, rather than trying to become a legitimate major newspaper in an ever-growing market, is retreating farther and farther into the provincial small-time.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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