Getting Civil with O.J.
Why some veteran reporters won’t schmooze with the Juice
By Jessica Seigel | Contributing Editor
DATELINE DÉJÀ VU--For old-timers on their second tour of O.J. trial duty, covering the Rehash of the Century is like attending a dysfunctional family reunion. You dread going, but once there you sorta have fun, even if you’re forced to listen to the same old stories.
"Boys behave yourselves!" someone’s auntie should scold, marching over to separate CBS-TV reporter Harvey Levin from Fox legal analyst Luke McKissack, who are scrapping happily on the Santa Monica courthouse lawn over a fine point of O.J. Simpson family trial history. Something about how the new, later murder time-line just doesn’t add up. Does too. Does not.
Just hours earlier, Levin had insisted he was exhausted, wrung out, kaput from covering the same exasperating, riveting, annoying subject for so long. Yet in spite of himself, he got so excited arguing that he clenched his fist, then mock-stabbed McKissack to illustrate his point.
Sudden mood swings always characterized the media’s love-hate relationship with the story that made the two and a half years since the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman feel like a hundred. “My feelings about covering this case are not logical,” Levin says.
Few of us in the press corps were ever rational about it. The case devoured our waking hours and invaded our dreams. After the not-guilty verdict, many trial reporters were physically sick for weeks—earaches, flu, back pain. Was it just exhaustion—or something else? Many left the newspaper business altogether. (I am one of them.) Even the bosses had overdosed, so this time news organizations have pulled back resources and coverage to a minimum. The Los Angeles Daily News reporter, for example, writes her stories in her car in the courthouse parking lot because her editors refused to pony up the $1,380 fee for space in the print pressroom.
MORE TO COME