Over the past two years, while most American coverage of the Meredith Kercher murder case either played the story straight or raised questions about the competence of the Italian justice system, Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast followed the lead of the British tabloids, dishing on the sexual proclivities and bizarre comportment of Amanda Knox, sometimes gleefully depicting the young woman improbably convicted of participating in the murder of her roommate as a proven villain.
One piece in 2009 described Ms. Knox as a “starlet” with an “aura about her.”
“She looks comfortable in the courtroom, almost as if she is playing a role rather than facing charges of cutting Meredith’s throat while Sollecito held back her arms and Guede sexually assaulted her,” reporter Barbie Latza Nadeau wrote.
“When [Amanda and Raffaele] got into the prison van at the end of each hearing, the press had bets on whether or not they got to have sex the whole way back, or whether they just talked dirty to each other through the bars,” she added.
The fifty-plus articles on the trial written by Ms. Latza Nadeau, a Newsweek Rome correspondent, were compiled and expanded upon in one of The Daily Beast’s first book offerings: Angel Face: The True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox. In the book’s forward, Ms. Brown lauds Ms. Nadeau’s “diligent pursuit of a story that most of the U.S. media, including the New York Times, badly misread.”
Not so fast. Now that the court’s decision has been overturned, isn’t the The Daily Beast the outlet that misread the evidence?
“Confused by #AmandaKnox?” the website tweeted on the day of the decision—without mentioning the Daily Beast’s possible role in sowing that confusion among its readers.
“The Beast’s @BLNadeau will host a live-chat tomorrrow at 1 p.m. to answer any Q’s.”
Needless to say, the Kercher murder was not a typical story, for the Beast or any other publication. Ms. Nadeau wrote that in Perugia, reporters and bloggers were divided in the eyes of the prosecutors, defendants, and authorities into two groups: the innocentisti, who thought she’d been framed, and the colpevolisti, who were convinced of her guilt. Reporters, she said, were given access to sources accordingly.
Although Ms. Nadeau told Off the Record in an e-mail she considered her reporting objective, it was clear throughout the trial and appeals what group she’d aligned herself with.
In the live chat on the The Daily Beast website, Ms. Nadeau had to face her critics.
“Do you plan on continuing to push the lie that there was mixed blood in the cottage?” asked Bruce Fisher, an innocentisti blogger affiliated with pro-Amanda Knox blog injusticeinperugia.org.
“Push the lie?” Ms. Nadeau responded. “I only report what I find. Do you plan to continue to try to kill the messenger of what is reported in court?”
Although an independent review deemed the prosecution’s DNA evidence sample too small or too contaminated to be used to convict Ms. Knox, The Beast stood by its reporting that she could have done it. The site even reprinted a list of “unanswered questions” for Ms. Knox from the first trial.
“Is there anything you wish you would have said in court during your trial?” Ms. Nadeau asked. “You talked about your vibrator and about how you did not want an assassin’s mask forced on you. But in your final appeal after the closing arguments on Dec. 4, 2010, why didn’t you say the words, ‘I did not kill Meredith Kercher’?”
Due to her seeming affinity for the prosecution’s view of the case, Ms. Nadeau was denied access to the Knox family. She described their presence in Perugia as “a sophisticated public-relations strategy using mass media and the Internet.” Instead, she based her reporting on the Italian records, which led her to depict Amanda as an “angel face” killer.
“Ms. Nadeau is deepy sourced, speaks fluent Italian and attended every key session in the proceedings so it is not at all surprising her perspective would be different from that of many other members of the media,” Andrew Kirk, a spokesperson for The Daily Beast, told Off the Record.
“Those who have scoured the crime scene video, studied the autopsy photos, read the 10,000 page court dossier, talked on and off the record to all the lawyers and prosecution first hand can’t help to be skeptical [of her innocence],” she told Off the Record by e-mail from Rome.
Asked if the judge’s decision, which freed Ms. Knox, made her reconsider her view, she wrote that she had no regrets, and doesn’t think she’s alone in thinking Ms. Knox could well have done it.
“I think that anyone who started covering this story from Perugia in November 2007 maintains a skeptical view, at least privately—whether that is reflected in the dispatches or not,” she wrote.
An updated electronic version of Ms. Nadeau’s book is being released this month, the spokesperson added.
No word on whether the title will acquire an asterisk.