How Social Media Influenced Media Coverage of Florida v. Casey Anthony

The Florida vs. Casey Anthony case has been dubbed the “Social Media Trial of the Century” by Time Magazine. There are at least three Twitter accounts (@CFNews13Casey, @CaseyAnthonyCh9 and @OSCaseyAnthony) and a multitude of hashtags relevant to the subject, including #CaseyAnthony and #JusticeforCaylee. If #CaseyAnthony is searched within Twitter, new tweets load every few seconds. This case has been compared to the OJ Simpson trial, except this time, the media is not the only outlet for exposure.

Back in 2008, I was working full time and would watch Good Morning America on a daily basis prior to leaving for work. I recall when the Caylee Anthony went missing, and the daily updates that she still had not been found. I stayed involved through the media, catching the story on the news when I could, and then the remains were found. I recall this day specifically, because I could not believe that little Caylee would have been disposed of so closely to the home she lived in with her mother, Casey and her grandparents Cindy and George.

Prior to the discovery of her remains, the social media angle of this case really started to take place. Cindy Anthony created a MySpace account in 2008 dedicated to locating little Caylee. Casey Anthony had been an active MySpace user, and her posts on the website, as well as Google searches for “how to make chloroform” and “how to break necks” have been admissible evidence in the current trial.

After her body was found, I did not follow the story as closely, until Florida vs. Casey Anthony began in May 2011. In contrast to the OJ Simpson trial, the social media revolution had taken place, and the availability of information regarding the case was accessible through the Internet. I quickly caught up on the case that the State of Florida has been building on Casey Anthony through YouTube. Currently, searching “Casey Anthony” within YouTube yields 9,330 results, and current trial footage that took place as early as today.

If you do not reside in the Orlando area, cable TV channels truTV and HLN have live trial coverage in the courtroom every day. If you work every day (like me), you can also stream the trial online through several outlets: Orlando Sentinel, WFTV or WCTV. There are even two iPhone apps that allow you to stream the live feed straight from your phone, for 99 cents. These apps provide information about the trial via different news feeds, and become best sellers of the paid news category in the App Store. Gabe Travers, Digital Media Manager of WESH (who created the app), was interviewed by MSBNC and said, “I’ve seen strangers waiting in line at local theme parks watching Casey Anthony videos on their phones. We realize in reality many people can’t sit down and watch the trial for hours each day.” Don’t want the app? There are daily (free) podcasts available for download in the app store as well. Though they are not streaming, you can at least catch up on the trial on-demand.

The case and trial is clearly readily available for an audience, but who is actually watching? In short – everyone. Beyond the best selling apps, frequently used hashtags, and YouTube videos, there is also an audience that discusses their opinions via Facebook. Facebook Page “Casey Anthony Updates” has over 78,000 followers and “Justice for Caylee Marie Anthony” has over 10,395.

Those that are following the case have very strong opinions about it, including mother Kellie James. Regarding her stance on whether she sides with the prosecution or defense, Kellie said, “I’m just going to root for poor little Caylee and pray for some justice for her.” And who is actually guilty? Grandmother Nancy Rehmann says, “I think the entire family is covering up.” Kellie agrees, “But I do personally feel that the parents do know that Casey did it, and yes I think the mom is lying for her to save her from a death sentence.” Student Chelsey Hellendrung says, “I am surprised she doesn’t plead insanity… Especially since she seems crazy.”

The jury was not only sequestered and from another county in Florida, but also banned by Judge Perry from the Internet and specifically “social media.” He knew how big this case would become. With closing arguments impending this week, one can only imagine the outcry at the results. One thing is for sure – we live in such a digital age that the ability to keep up with every moment of this capital murder case is literally in our hands.

Check out my Storify report regarding this subject and let me know your opinions.


~ by julieesmer on June 30, 2011.

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