But the reporters in the room had their own limitations. They were handcuffed todaily minutiae--DNA alleles, glove shrinkage, the red herring of Mark Fuhrman's racism and the judicial game of fox-and-hounds. Meanwhile, the morally blind machinery of mass attention ground on, obliterating distinctions between accomplishment and murder, notoriety and fame. The deaths of a once-unknown Brentwood waiter and housewife inevitably slipped from the mind. Mentioning them seemed almost sentimental.
It was a scene that eventually troubled Toobin. In the Oct. 23 New Yorker, he wrote: "When it came to actual reporting on the trial, we all turned into a remarkably timorous crew. As far as I could tell, no one ever worried that their treatment of the defense was unduly favorable. The case against Simpson was simply overwhelming. When we said otherwise, we lied to the audience that trusted us."
That charge could never be laid at the Enquirer's feet. It wasn't the Enquirer but Toobin who floated several highly speculative defense theories never supported by facts--like the charge that Fuhrman planted a bloody glove on Simpson's estate or that the murders were a Colombian drug hit intended for Nicole's friend Faye Resnick.
The Enquirer never mistakenly said that a bloody ski mask had been found at the murder scene, as did the L.A. Daily News, or that Clark had been seen at the Simpson estate before a search warrant was issued, as did KCBS-TV.
And as the the line between tabloid sensationalism and mainstream journalistic ethics all but disappeared, the Enquirer filled another role. It never lost sight of the victims. Their images remained as vivid as the day they died through almost weekly photographs of Nicole and her children at family holidays, or of the Brown or Goldman families grieving at their gravesides. (\o7 O.J.'s Lonely Kids Throw Birthday Party for Mommy. Dramatic Graveside Photos: Nicole's Sister Prays for Justice. The day Ron Goldman saved his sister's life: Secret pact with\f7 b\o7 rother is driving force behind her court vigil.\f7 )
"The tabloids keep the victims alive," said Dominick Dunne, Vanity Fair trial correspondent, at lunch the day after defense attorney F. Lee Bailey made the absurd suggestion that two sophisticated assassins may well have worn identical pairs of rare Size 12 Bruno-Magli shoes to confuse police. "That's why we're here," said Dunne, whose own daughter was murdered in Los Angeles in 1982. He hit the table with his fingers as he whispered: "Because of the victims."
The Enquirer's sympathy for victims did not begin with the Simpson trial. For the past five years, I had noticed any celebrity accused of sexual harassment, wife battery, date rape, non-payment of child support or exploitative sex with children could count on an exhaustive dissection of it all in the Enquirer: \o7 Tyson Beats Wife in Jealous Rage! Judge Thomas Lied: He Fails Lie Detector Test! Kennedy Clan Goes on Attack Against 'Rape Victim:' They've Hired an Army of Investigators to Dig Up Dirt! Michael Jackson Child Abuse Scandal Accuser, 13, Tells All.\f7
It is an editorial focus shared--in a more respectable form--by People magazine and the daytime talk shows, which also have predominantly female audiences. Last February, People put "Why Nobody Helped Nicole" on its cover. During the Anita Hill hearings, it interviewed feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon as well as ordinary women who had suffered sexual harassment. In 1991, when former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur said she'd been sexually abused by her late father, it prominently featured her story.
"We cover any national story of gender conflict," says Landon Jones, managing editor of People, whose 3.4-million circulation--64% of which is female--is slightly larger than either the Enquirer's or Newsweek's. "When we get them on the cover, they sell remarkably well."
"Celebrity covers in and of themselves have lost a lot of their allure," Jones says. "We have found that first-person accounts of women who have survived violence are very compelling, and the best of all situations is a young woman celebrity who has been a victim."
These stories are often dismissed as "trash" by the mainstream press, but GloriaSteinem, founder of Ms. magazine, takes issue with that. "I've always mistrustedthe category 'trash TV,' " she says. "It often means issues of concern to the female population, like health, nutrition and exercise, family and relationship issues--and violence, of which we're the primary victims."
At the Enquirer, such stories are less a product of a feminist ideology than of demographics: 67% of its readers are women, half are married and 45% have children under 18. Median annual family income is $29,000. Advertising is thin and subscriptions a relatively meager 500,000, leaving the weekly attuned to the woman reader who decides whether or not to pay $1.29 at the checkout stand.