Friday, June 09, 2006


So this is why I ran screaming from journalism after exactly two days of it, in the immediate wake of four years of veddy expensive preparation to do this for the rest of my life.

Imagine that your daughter, your sister, your best friend was murdered, and the weapon of choice just happened to be a bikini top. And all of a sudden, your daughter, your sister, your best friend… this full, complete, frustrating-wonderful person, was suddenly reduced worldwide to: “The Bikini Top Murder Mystery."

That’s what happened to Tiffany Souers.

That’s her name, Tiffany Souers. She wasn't some Hooters whore who passed her days wandering the street in a bathing suit. Her parents are Jim and Bren. Jim is a business associate of my father’s. Tiffany grew up in a Midwest Catholic suburb, just like me. She was an engineering student at Clemson. And she was smart and kind and did a lot of volunteer work. And then a stranger strangled her in her apartment. And the smart and kind person was chipped away and chipped away by assult layers of zoomy graphics and ten-second story updates until she was just… a bikini top.

Especially adept at this was Headline News’ Nancy Grace, who spent a half hour every single night on the case with a gigantic banner at the bottom of the screen, so huge that it obliterated her demonstration of the opening of a rape kit (don’t ask.) There was a delightful carousel of banners accenting Nancy’s very aggressive hair: BIKINI STRANGLER MURDER. BIKINI STRANGLER SUSPECT NAMED. And, the other night: BREAKING NEWS... BIKINI STRANGLER CAUGHT! Exclamation point!

But, you know, these producers can multitask. Every three to five minutes, an enormous wooooosh! would herald an on-screen advertisement for the second half of the show, complete with pop-up graphic and twirling picture. So we had extraordinarily classy, helpful news moments such as when the local sheriff was discussing the case, and how they were on a manhunt for the killer, who had the following distinguishing charact--wooooosh! DID SHE SELL HER CHILDREN? IN 8 MINUTES! wooooosh!

Nancy has a sidekick whose name was not mentioned very much, because he does not go about strangling people with bikini tops. His job is to stand at the side of Nancy's desk and point to enormous Power Point slides of bulleted information, like some sort of prosecutorial meteorologist. Nancy hates him.

“Susigbasdh?” she muttered at him after he detailed other murders in the Clemson area.

“Excuse me?” he said faintly.

“WAS. THE. CASE. SOLVED?!?!?!?” Her disgust was dripping all down her leather jacket and onto the rape kit. Idiot! Infidel! Talking when she wasn’t!

I hear that Nancy used to be a prosecuting attorney. Well, that should make her an ideal choice to sensitively interview the shellshocked and grieving parents of the victim on the day the murderer was arrested.

I was going to link to Nancy’s website, to show you the poll her webmaster posted last night about whether or not her murderer should get the death penalty.

But there are no mentions of Tiffany. Anywhere. Instead, there's a poll asking if... the killer of a Lubbock teenager named Joanna Rogers should get the death penalty.

Nancy's investigative reporter referred to the crime as "The Texas Terror."


Cbell said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you... for ranting on one of my favorite rants. Can we puhleeeze have a news day WITHOUT catchy phrases... WITHOUT moving graphics?

Good grief people! Do we really HAVE to give monsters their very own, individual monikers? If we just call them all monsters won't they slink off into their own anonymity?

For the love...

TAMAR said...

I am deeply sorry for her parents (and everyone else who cared)'s loss. I came thisclose to attempted vehicular manslaghter once.

I was going to the funeral of a friend who made the mistake of stopping by her boyfriend's house on the fateful Thanksgiving that his brother went homicidal. In that one day the brother killed his brother, his mother & father, his grandpa and his brother's girlfriend (just cause she stopped by and caught him in the act).

Anyhow, this made news and was one of the LARGEST news stories on west side of Michigan. I think that the story went global. Driving to her funeral, I was directly behind the News8 van that was going to 'cover the story'. You have no idea what restraint it took to not run them off of the road!!

It's never a good situation, but why can't the media leave people alone???!!!???

Oh, did I mention that my hubby (bf at the time) was planning on stopping by that day? He decided to just let the family celebrate Thanksgiving, and he'd catch up with his buddy the next day. There was no next day for his bud, and I wouldn't have him if he'd have went.

Still gives me chills!

amy lou the reader said...


What a story. I'm so sorry to hear of both of these tragedies.

The media is, at times, completely clueless. I guess - like MB - there's a reason I was unable to find a reporting job after college.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I found a reporting job. I just ran screaming from it.

Tamar, that is the most chilling story I've heard in a while. Yikes.

Jcat2323 said...

MB, you do a great job of using your wit to be hillariously funny and other times be able to hit upon serious issues in a respectful way that's interesting and well written.
I totally agree. The media crosses the line waaaay to often. I hate watching the interviews where they try to disect the families feelings, like they get a bonus if the people they interview cry. Have a little respect. I also cannot believe the people that are protesting the war at the funerals of soldiers killed in the war. Some people have no respect at all for others. It's seriously depressing. It would be great to have some kind of movie-angel power, where you could turn the tables on these people and show them what it's like to be on the receiving end of that crap.

Dantelope said...

Devil's advocate, here.

Isn't this kind of like blaming drug dealers for the drug problem?

Folks, it's the users. Clearly you were watching. MB, with your Nielsen box, surely you understand the ramificaations.

If we all stop watching the news, it will go away.


That's the ticket.

Anonymous said...

The Neilson diary went away months ago, and even if I did still have it, ain't no way I'm throwing numbers to the likes of Nancy Grace. I watched because this is the first time I've been in any way personally connected to a crime like this--and I didn't even know Tiffany--and the experience gave me a deeper perspective on how the media works. It's changed me for the better.

TAMAR said...

2 years after that event, I was in the habit of going out for a couple of drinks every Tuesday with a few friends. Spur of the moment bf and I (hubby now) decided to go on a whirlwind trip to D.C. so I missed my usual night out.

That Tuesday the bar we always went to was held up and one of my buds was shot. He held on for 3 weeks before finally succumbing to his wounds. I actually found out on my way to work. I had bf stop so I could get a paper (to pass the time working the front desk of a hotel) I scanned the headlines, and flipped it over, and there below the fold was the headline, "Victim succumbs to wounds" Not a very nice way to find out, to say the least.

It has been something that has made both hubby and I feel VERY lucky, and that we're meant to be together. Crazy, huh?

HelloBettyLou said...
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thatsnutty said...

That reminds me of the morning I was watching the news (which in the morning is nothing but weather and traffic) and there had been a fatal accident on a major highway (I'm in the SF Bay Area so it's ALL interconnected and major) and the anchors kept mentioning how two hours ago the CHP said they would have the accident cleared in two hours and how frustrating it was that two hours later it STILL wasn't cleared...Um, yeah, traffic=no fun...but please KRON 4 news...Where are your priorities? Someone just died and the only thing you worry about is how it's might mean that people have to forgo their stop at Starbucks since traffic is backed up?

It is disgusting I tell you

red pill junkie said...

I totally agree with Dantelope here: the only thing the media is doing is providing a product people are demanding. People LOVE monsters cbell, and those stories are the only thing the news anchors hold up until they have the "luck" to run into the next great tsunami or hurricane or earthquake and show their best face of concern and shock while showing the images of bodies lying everywhere.

If the media has become the 4th power is because we have bestowed this power unto them.

Tamar, I stopped believing in coincidences and "luck" a long time ago. Surely the Big Guy has in store a big job for you and your hubby don't you think?

Jcat2323 said...

The problem is with the people who actually want that kind of "inside story" stuff, the ones who read the tabloids and have to know all the juicy details. Some of us just want to know what's going on outside of our own little world. There really isn't a way to do that without the news (though it would be fun to stick it to the news people by cutting them off). I get the feeling that reporters have some kind of Lois Lane complex, thinking that every story is connected to a deep mystery that they need to get to the bottom of. Maybe they feel the need to make their jobs more exciting by making a big drama out of every story. Everyone's hyped up on the idea of getting ratings and being a reporting star, no one seems to care about reporting the news. As long as there are people in the tabloid crowd to keep watching the "inside story" news variety, they'll keep reporting it.

Miasys said...

This whole media cluster makes me ill. I feel the worst for this poor girl's parents. I quit watching the news, and reading the papers. I live in St. Louis, Tiffany's hometown, and beyond the first article in the local Journal, I stopped reading about it. Just couldn't handle the sensationalism, local or national. My prayers to her family. God bless.

Emchi said...

when you can't say something with words... power point is your answer... not (I had to sit through a 32 page power point presentation today with THE worst trainer ever).

We in the UK aren't blessed with that kind of thing, instead everyone is up in arms with the way the BBC presenters are now standing up to read the news... standing up!! Wow, let's not worry about Bliar being a pillock yet again, or the Iraq war or heaven forbid whether or not Wayne Rooney's foot is ok (I really don't care).

We realised whilst on holiday, and subjected to CNN news as the only english speaking channel in Cannes of the horror that you guys get to witness in the form of news. Do you really need to see all those dead bodies and stuff? Does it add to the story the person was slaughtered? I don't think so. I would say we're different but upon my return we get to see gore from the death of the head of Al Quaida in Iraq, nice.

I have to ask these days do we really get the full picture about anything? Nothing is unbiased, and due to European legislation even thugs that are wanted by the police and holding a stand off on a roof have the right to demand a KFC and an un-opened bottle of drink, because to not do so is a violation of human rights... don't get me started.

amy lou the reader said...

I found a reporting job. I just ran screaming from it.

I apologize for the mistake, mb.

I'd rather be a no-pay, part-time blogger and write what I want how I want it while working at non-writing full-time job than compromise. At least this way I can sleep at night.

Anonymous said...

No prob, Amy Lou :)

This is what I love about having readers from across the pond. They bring words like "whist" to the table. You can't buy that.

red pill junkie said...

"I have to ask these days do we really get the full picture about anything? Nothing is unbiased, and due to European legislation even thugs that are wanted by the police and holding a stand off on a roof have the right to demand a KFC and an un-opened bottle of drink, because to not do so is a violation of human rights... don't get me started."

Well isn't that preferable than to end up shooting six times in the head a poor electrician from Brazil than just happened to live near the place the terrorists used to, and he had that al-qaedish tone of skin?

I know MB, I shouldn't write about polytical issues, but think about it: some people cheered when they saw the dead face of al-Zarqawi on the news, others were offended like emchi. Some people were offended by the way the media treated the story of this poor murdered girl, others wanted to see photos of the bikini that was used to end her life. Maybe with union of digital tv and video-on-demand we'll be able to costumize the kind of news that we see on our screens.

savannah the college student said...

There's not much that hasn't already been said by everyone else about the glorification of violence in the news, so I think I'll rant about something else.

I agree that Nancy Grace is probably one of the worst news anchors in the way of sensitivity. And the way she starts to choke up every time she reads a headline - it could be that Microsoft just announced a new flaw in XP or something, and she'll be all sniffling and saying something like "As an XP user myself, something like this just really hits close to home" or some other inane statement.

But Rita Cosby's actually a notch higher on the tact-less list. She has a way of restating EVERY single thing that anyone ever says to her.

Rita: What's the weather like in Ohio, Tom?
Tom: Well, Rita, it's a little bit breezy.
Rita: So it's a little bit breezy in Ohio then, Tom?

*long pause*

Tom: Yes, Rita, it's a little bit breezy.

I don't remember if it was the families of the trapped miners or if it was Natalie Holloway's mother, but I remember her doing the same thing in her interviews with them, and it was just painful to watch these innocent people having to talk to this ridiculous woman.

I don't know how half of these "news anchors" get where they are.

Ponderin Jim said...

Let's see...

1) Bird Flu
2) Waterskiing squirrel
3) Celebrity Couplings
4) Celebrity Births
5) Canada

Tell me these things deserve media coverage!

Humans obsess over the oddest things. Media targets those odd obsessions. We don't ask for celebrations of lives, just the details of death. We don't care about the hero, just the pretty heroes.

I gotta go surf IMDB for pics of that kid from Namibia now. Gonna buy a T-shirt.

(and I revoke what I said about the aquatic rodent - that cracks me up every time)

Attitude Amy said...

If they had put her name on that site then they probaby would have spelled it wrong anyway.

My ex-husband's battalion was in the paper. There was a picture of the battalion's sign just outside their building on the front page of the paper. Even though the name and number of their battalion was clearly shown in the pictue, the paper still managed to spell the name wrong and also put the incorrect number in their headline.

On the bright side: at least she didn't die on the toilet. I'm sure I am destined for such a fate myself. Murphy's Law and I are well aquainted.

I can see the headlines now: "The Not-So-Tidy Bowl Murder" or "To Big To Fush Murder" or the "Shit Happens Murder" and depending on the circumstances either "The Yellow Mellow" or "The Brown Didn't Go Down" Murder. It would be nice if the murderer at least let me flush first. But, there's no decorum in murder these days. The world's gone to pot. There's another headline.

The news isn't news anymore. It's talk shows and opinions. Very little fact left anymore.

moss said...

Wow. MB that was powerfully done.

Paul Adams said...
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Paul Adams said...
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Jenib said...

Aaaammmyyyyy, knock it off. I almost spit my soda on the screen and it's my new ginormous LCD!!


It's only because I know too much of the "inside story".

Nancy Grace is one of those people I view with a puppy expression-head tilted to one side and confused looking. I want to enjoy her show but it's like a freak accident in slow motion...things keep piling up to an uncomfortable level and I have to click back to HGTV just to calm my nerves.

Tamar, a day or two after I was born, a gunman came into the hospital and onto the ward I was on and wounded/killed several people. My mother's ward was put into lockdown and she did not know whether I was alive or not for several hours. It gives me chills to know that I was that close to that kind of violence at just days old. I have side stepped other crimes and truly believe that there must be some kind of guardian angel working overtime on my case.

Emchi said...

Red Pill Junkie, it wasn't the face of the dead Zarqawi that bothered me, it's seeing all the blood, I'm not squeamish but do we really need to see it?

I don't condone the shooting of Jean Charles de menezes, but the guy they'd chased up on the roof was clearly guilty of TWOCing (Taking with out Owners Consent), he'd got out the car, and had run up on the roof. He was throwing any available missile at the police, yet he was afforded KFC and drink because of his human rights. We live in a rather pathetic state if those who abuse the rules get better treatment than those who don't.

I don't think the glamourisation of violence by the media is a means to justify what is happening in regards to terrorists, or murderers or gangs. It's unacceptable. I don't think if we all shut up it will go away, but if we fail to glamourise the situation then the parties involved in the atrocities will probably get bored.

MB - no probs on the "whilst" ;o) I use all kinds of funny words I do... Any requests?

Anonymous said...


Research said...

I recently published a report on CSA or child sexual assaults. Immediately after a local station emailed me a story they ran on the Bikini Strangler and the local DCF in failure to force him into treatments as a sexual predator taking on the blame and looking to evaluate how they handled cases.

Dont let the state fool you. CSA and predators are big money makers for some government entities. The VOCA program of each state receaves at times over 500 million dollars a year based on rape numbers of children and related crimes. It is estimated the cost of rape runs about 87 thousand dollars per individual in a lifetime to treat and loss of natural incomes.

VOCA is a Supreme Court mandated fund for victims. THe majority of those receaving it are csa under 21 years old. By law all incomes are to be used to treat or assist state victims of crimes. However, the Federal VOCA now lets them hold cash over year per year. After 911 the Legistlatures made a drastic mistake. They permitted the fund to expand to victims of terrorists.

It is basic business. The numbers have to be high to gain the larger funds from the Government. The numbers of treated victims have to be low to retain held over money for potential terror attacks that may or may not happen. The results are few children receave treatments and if they do, they do not get the informaiton from the State Attorney office who are to relay or ensure treatments and assistance, as established under the Prosecutor Funds out of VOCA, and DCF can record it but avoid exposure of non treatments by not imposing the laws on using funds to ensure your neighbor or your child will not meet a Bikini Strangler.

The Strangler is not one ounce sicker or sinister than the people that knew what he was, what he would do, and let him go anyway without ensuring public safety for the people.

An identical case emerged during the reports of the Strangler at this time. A case history of five young girls, two confessions and admissions of guilt, one state encarceration and he got another while on parole for a previous offense. His father ran a sex bar in town with the motto “What happens here stays here.” The bar is doing fine. The children are dieing.

It was only until demands were made did the FDLE even place him on the registry. Those were the nice parts of the events.

When you look for the monster under the bed, make sure you notice who is sleeping with whom down there.

barnes and noble employment said...
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