Media can't get enough of Knox trial in Italy

PERUGIA, Italy (AP) - October 1, 2011

The media have descended on Perugia by the hundreds to cover the highly anticipated verdict in the appeals trial of Knox, the photogenic young American convicted of murdering her British roommate. They tweet away in the courthouse, run around to get the latest soundbites by the lawyers, and stake out the Knox family hangouts for interviews.

Their presence is evident along the posh Corso Vannucci, where residents sip coffee or taste the city's famous chocolate. Local newspapers regularly report about the big networks coming to town, and even the court president has had to address TV requests for live coverage of the verdict, expected Monday.

"During the break, the media interviews the media about the media... " tweeted Barbie Nadeau, a Rome-based American reporter who covers Italy for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. "This trial is not about the murder of Meredith Kercher anymore, it's about how to cover it."

The case has spurred some 20 books, with at least another one coming out next month; thousands of articles; a TV movie; and at least one feature film - based on Nadeau's own book "Angel Face" - in development, starring Academy Award winner Colin Firth.

With young and attractive defendants, a brutal murder and tales of sex and drugs, the case immediately captivated audiences worldwide. Kercher's body was found in the house she shared with Knox on Nov. 2, 2007; Knox and her co-defendant and then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were arrested four days later.

Today, there are 412 journalists accredited with the Perugia tribunal, many from American, British and Italian news outlets - the nations that have followed the case most closely. But representatives of Dutch, French and German media are also present.

Knox has commanded most of the attention, her face gracing magazine covers, her life the subject of countless reports, her looks in court invariably scrutinized. Knox's family has been doggedly pleading her case in front of the cameras.

"The ratio of media tension to the news importance of this case is completely out of line," Nadeau said. For many people, she said, with each trial hearing "it was almost like tuning in to the next episode of a reality TV show."

"A lot of people just got their weekly Knox fix and we, the media, kept it alive," Nadeau said.

In the aftermath of the killing, TV cameras kept showing footage of Knox and Sollecito hugging and kissing outside the crime scene and police inspecting the house. Newspapers were soon filled with reports of the out-of-control lives of foreign students in Perugia, a university town about 110 miles (180 kilometers) north of Rome.

The role of the media has been so prominent that all parties discussed it in their closing arguments. Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini has lamented what he said was media interference and an increasingly strong campaign in support of Knox. Defense lawyers said Knox had been unfairly portrayed.

The media are feverishly making plans in case of an acquittal: Cameramen and photographers are to be positioned at Capanne prison where Knox has been held, and speculation over who will get that first interview with Knox is rife.

When not working, journalists fill the city's restaurants and cafes, such as favorite hangout Bottega del Vino, a cozy wine bar and restaurant.

"At their tables, the journalists keep talking about it," said Luigi Alfano, the restaurant's director. "They all have their ideas, and they stick to them."

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