In early 2008, I read a disturbing story of young lust and murderous rage, fueled by alcohol one late night, that left a 21-year-old woman dead in Perugia, Italy. I read about the murderers: an attractive couple in their early 20s, who looked like any clean-cut college students you’d see on any campus in the U.S. The evidence, as it was reported, was damning: Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, had brutally stabbed Meredith Kercher in a sex game gone bad.
For almost four years, I have followed the Amanda Knox story. Not because I love stories of murder, but because not long after I read that initial report, I read another one that gave an entirely different gloss on the whole situation. In that article, Knox was the victim of a barbaric legal system that refused to admit fault, despite nearly irrefutable evidence that she was not the killer at all, but a sweet and spirited college student. The real killer, allegedly, was an African drifter named Rudy Guede.
Both articles appeared in the same newspaper, the New York Times, written by American journalists.
Presented with such radically opposed treatments of the story, I was hooked on the case — not just because I became convinced of Knox’s innocence, but because I wanted to see how coverage of the story changed and evolved over time.
Before long, the American media settled on a position of “Amanda Knox, wrongfully imprisoned, victim of Italian injustice,” while the Italian media was far less charitable. But I never forgot that initial article in the Times, and I wondered if anyone else following the story had experienced the same flip of conviction that I had.
It’s largely because the American media would not leave the story alone that Knox received as much support as she did. Indeed, her acquittal on Monday would likely never have happened if c overage had been different over the past four years, or worse, nonexistent. Which leads me to a question about the media: was it irresponsible of the Times to lead readers down a path from which the paper would ultimately retreat? Or was the Times merely reporting what seemed true at the moment ?
The answers to those questions are “no” and “yes,” respectively. And that’s okay. But as the Knox story shows, we must be skeptical in reading the news, but we must read, and we must continue to read as stories develop. Truth changes. Things are rarely as they seem.