By Brendan Ulmer
New mom Amanda Knox stood before a crowd of many students, many faculty members, many interested citizens of Hutchinson, many of whom may never fully believe the story she has to tell. She stood before everyone on Tuesday morning at the Sports Arena, a product of her past, but firmly unparalyzed by its horrors. Amanda Knox stood before everyone, a free woman.
“One of the reasons I got into journalism was that I saw what it looked like on the other side,” Knox said, “I know what ethical, humanistic reporting looks like and I know what the other side looks like and feels like. In my own work I always try to steer towards the humanistic, giving back agency, actually using an objective lens instead of trying to get the right sound bite for these predetermined story that I’ve already worked out, I already have the headline for and it’s gonna be great and splashy.”
Knox is a Seattle-based journalist, author and podcaster, but unlike most others in her profession, she has the unique perspective of once being the subject of a massive worldwide news story. In 2007, she was falsely accused, and convicted, of murdering her roommate while she was a foreign-exchange student in Italy. Perhaps unsurprisingly this has led to her gravitating towards covering stories of wrongful convictions.
“Always, always, always empathize with the person who’s on the other side of the questions,” she said “One thing that really bothers me – especially around wrongful conviction stories – is that a lot of times people get out of prison, like ‘oh my god, yay, we’re out of prison!’ They go and eat their hamburger for the first time at McDonald’s. Then everyone’s … and goes OK, story’s done’, and that was their one moment to tell their story and have perspective on their experience when actually in reality it takes years of processing to have a real genuine understanding of what you went through, how you feel and what you want to say to the world about it?”
While the language surrounding this concept of humanistic journalism may seem subjective and perhaps overly compassionate, Knox carries a stoic, yet engaging tone that perfectly suits her point that while humanity is abstract and turbulent, it is nonetheless objective and more emphasis should be put on respecting it in the news industry.
“Sometimes, not everyone is a storyteller, not everyone knows how to articulate, depths of pain and understanding they’ve gained about the world,” she said. ”One of the things I’ve tried to do is try to help other people establish what their story is to understand what their story means to them.”
Knox’s case was notorious for the sensationalist and salacious headlines, prying into her life in ways that she didn’t think were warranted and blew things out of proportion that were not abnormal. Nonetheless she was dubbed “Foxy Knoxy” by tabloids who ran as many stories on her as they possibly could.
“Right now, what sells is what ends up getting in papers, not what’s actually in the public interest,” Knox said. “You want your press to be a separate entity, who isn’t beholden to whoever’s giving out money, but it is. So my only immediate solution is for people to be more media literate and understand what it is they’re consuming so that they can be the arbiters of what is valuable and what is not, and what is in the public interest and what is not. More media literacy, and also more empathy for those who find themselves the subject of media stories, I think is going to lead to better consumption of media and therefore better incentive structures for media companies … but also some accountability for those media companies would be nice.”
She finished with a smile and laugh.