A call for improved John Edwards flirtation coverage


(Gerry Broome/AP)

Here’s how the Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia puts the matter:

One of the alternates, an attractive young woman, has been spotted smiling at Edwards and flipping her hair in what seems to some to be a flirtatious manner. On Friday, she wore a revealing red top with a single strap and an exposed right shoulder.

And here’s ABC News:

The juror clearly instigated the exchanges. She smiles at him. He smiles at her. She giggles. He blushes.

The flirtation has become so obvious that even Edwards’ attorneys have to work to suppress their laughter at the absurdity of it all.

Both of these accounts pass any examination of journalistic hygiene. They clearly result from on-the-scene reporting. They are written with precision. And they are so delicious in their details — just the perfect story for the warm-down to a holiday weekend.

And yet they get us only so far. What’s going on between this alternate juror and Johnny Reid Edwards, after all, is something that resists the written word. Yes, we all know what giggling and blushing mean. A good bout of flirtation, however, is a head-to-toe transaction, one that involves looking away, looking back, all sorts of strange and nervous body language. There’s too much going on for any one observer to take in and spit back out.

In other words, we need video.

We won’t get it, either. Here’s a notice from the website of the federal courthouse in which the Edwards trial is taking place:

Photographic, recording and transmitting devices are PROHIBITED in all courthouses. Prohibited devices include, but are not limited to, laptop computers, wireless microphones, recorders, cameras, 2-way radios, push-to-talk cellphones and cellphones with cameras. (Exceptions may be made by the Court or its designee.)

Would that an exception to the policy could be made for the sake of flirtation coverage. The public interest demands as much.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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