Amanda Knox’s trial has captivated media across the globe for the past several years. And depending on which publication you happen to be reading, she could be portrayed as a wholesome all-American girl, a femme fatale or a villainous “she-devil.”
The media coverage in the U.S. has been mostly favorable, especially after the shaky DNA evidence on which she was originally convicted was tossed out during her appeal. This can partially be attributed to Gogerty Marriott, a Seattle PR firm that agreed to help the Knox family handle all the attention they were receiving from the press. They also landed interviews on every major news network in the country: NBC, CNN, CBS, ABC and Fox News. In a way, they gave Amanda Knox a voice to publicly tell her side of the story through her parents, which some are now saying was a major factor in her conviction getting overturned.
Giuliano Mignini, the Italian prosecutor, was quoted as saying, “This lobbying, this media and political circus, this heavy interference, forget all of it!” and complained of the “media’s morbid exaltation” of Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. However, Knox’s lawyers countered by saying the two defendants had been “crucified” by the media.
The PR campaign set up on Knox’s behalf was very effective in changing her public image, at least here in the states. The majority of the U.S. media coverage has focused on her return to the states, how’s she’s feeling and what her plans are now that she’s free. However, in the UK, they’re spinning a different story. Take this recent Daily Mail headline for example: “Will Foxy spare a thought for the Kerchers?” Using the “Foxy Knoxy” moniker given to her by the international press to go along with her femme fatale image, the Daily Mail is still attempting to stir the pot. By focusing on the pain of Meredith Kercher’s family and using a photo of Knox arriving home with a big smile on her face, the author is subtly trying to portray Knox as callous and uncaring.
The Daily Mail was also guilty of publishing a completely false story claiming Knox’s conviction was upheld and that she would immediately be returning to prison. In the article, they had fictional quotes from the prosecution and included little nuggets of “information” like: “Both [Knox and Sollecito] will be put on a suicide watch for the next few days as psychological assessments are made on each of them but this is usual practice for long term prisoners.”
I’m sure in big cases like this it’s not unusual for publications to prepare two versions of the same story so they’re ready to go to press as soon as the verdict is announced. However, to make up facts and quotes is sloppy, unethical and in this case, biased.
Another European publication focused more on “American PR” and its supposed influence in the case, along with the Italian public’s angry reaction to the appeals verdict.
My personal opinion is that while Gogerty Marriott did a great job of controlling Knox’s public image, I don’t think they’re responsible for her conviction getting overturned. Almost every piece of evidence used against Knox and Sollecito in the original trial was either thrown out or re-attributed to Rudy Guede, the man who was also convicted for killing Meredith Kercher and is currently in the middle of a 16-year prison sentence (more information on the evidence can be found here). There was simply not enough proof for any reasonable person to say Knox and Sollecito were definitely involved.
The media has an obligation to investigate the facts and try to be as unbiased as possible in their reporting of the news. And while American journalists certainly aren’t perfect, rarely have I found such obvious bias like what I’ve seen in the European press.
Like I said, I don’t think the work of Knox’s PR team influenced the judges in her case. However, I think their work was instrumental in transforming her image from a kinky, sexual murderer to something a little more realistic: an actual human being.