More Messages: The Wrong Star?

The first time around, much of the reportage the Rocky Mountain News lavished upon the JonBenet Ramsey murder was cringe-inducing -- and so it goes again. In the early years of the investigation, the paper was criticized in many quarters for kowtowing to John and Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's under-the-umbrella-of-suspicion parents, in exchange for exclusive access. Now, the Rocky's powers-that-be seem to view the arrest in Thailand of suspect John Mark Karr as vindication for their original approach. As a result, the tab's articles to date have placed far too much focus on the building of evidence against Karr, and not nearly enough on what appear to be gaping craters in the case. The Denver Post did a good job of documenting the latter in an August 20 story that rightly appeared on page one.

The main naysayer at the Rocky? In an August 19 column headlined "Karr May Be Crazy, But He's Not the Right Man," Rocky columnist Bill Johnson (pictured) wrote, "I've had enough. So I will just come right out and say what others in this business apparently will not... John Mark Karr as much killed JonBenet Ramsey as Mickey Mouse did."

Could be -- but making such a definitive statement at this point is ludicrous --unless Johnson has exclusive access to inside information, and that's mighty doubtful. More likely, Johnson has just been watching a lot of television -- a medium he has turned to for "scoops" in the past. As documented in this February 2006 installment of the Message, the Rocky printed a correction after Johnson admitted that he hadn't actually witnessed a colorful scene he'd described for a piece written in Pittsburgh during the NFL playoffs. Instead, he had simply eyeballed it on TV.

Even so, Johnson could be correct when it comes to Karr -- and if so, his paper is going to look nearly as foolish as Boulder district attorney Mary Lacy, whose actions relaunched the JonBenet media frenzy. They'd better pray they haven't hitched their wagons to the wrong star. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts