Media Starting To Take A Closer Look At The Knox PR Shills With Nina Burleigh Exhibit One

Click on the image above for the report on the PR role of Nina Burleigh by the New York Times’s Kate Zernike.

In the news media’s frenzy surrounding an Italian court’s decision last week to free Amanda Knox, the American exchange student convicted of killing her roommate in Perugia, the journalist Nina Burleigh was a near-constant television presence. Her face looped in and out of shows like “Today,” “Good Morning America,” “20/20” and “Anderson Cooper 360.” She made appearances on NPR, the BBC and MSNBC.

With her emphatic defense of Ms. Knox (criticizing the “appalling” treatment of her by the Italian courts and news media, insisting “the evidence didn’t exist,” that the “jury rubber-stamped a conviction”), Ms. Burleigh seemed at times to move from journalist to advocate, treading what she knew, as a longtime reporter and author, was a dangerous line.

Nina Burleigh has certainly had a busy, busy week - playing advocate for Amanda Knox, plugging Burleigh’s own book on the case, and helping CBS sell the first of many (many more than anyone wants to see) pre-packaged Knox pieces that dutifully toe David Marriott’s Knox PR line.

Those looking for facts are advised to watch major league baseball on Sunday night.

Burleigh found herself facing a dilemma before she penned the first paragraph of her book: Team Marriott, firmly in place by then, would only allow access to advocacy journalists. So Burleigh took that path, a disastrous one for everything but television exposure and perhaps book sales.

Burleigh jumped on board late, does not speak Italian, attended only a handful of trial sessions, and even got the birthdate of the victim, Meredith Kercher, wrong. Worse, she used the Knox’s friendly translator as her interpreter! That trail is a loop that leads to a predictable place.

For authors claiming to be journalists, this excellent NY Times piece should serve as a warning: Advocacy is not journalism. It leads to conflict of interest and turns journalists into shills. And this is bad for all of us.

This book should be on the bedside table of anyone who aspires to be a journalist.

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Very good post, Skep.  Thank you for drawing attention to the lack of ethics displayed by advocacy “journalists.”

This case here is just one of the many examples of deviation from objectivity and pandering to commercial interests, with zero regard for the truth.  I’m wondering how long it will take for other journalists following this case to turn on Peter van Sant or Elizabeth Vargas.

As someone who remembers how things were behind the Iron Curtain, I can’t help feeling appalled that something as powerful and precious as free media has sold out so completely. 

For anyone whose family used to furtively listen to BBC Radio back in the 80s, always paranoid that you’d be found out, this is one of the greatest and least forgivable betrayals of the Western world.

I find it ironic that in the free world, in which professional media is not centrally controlled and censored, information is best sought in corners of the internet run by an intellectual “resistance.”

Posted by Vivianna on 10/10/11 at 06:45 PM | #

9/11 is also a perfect example of this. Sad New World.

Posted by gdeschaetzen on 10/10/11 at 07:42 PM | #

At last America seems to waking up. I also get the feeling that angry complacent ‘guilters’ are now taking part in the forums and debates

Posted by starsdad on 10/10/11 at 07:49 PM | #

I smiled when you posted this on your blog, Skep. I was writing a piece on the subject of the media myself, though from a broader perspective of how we are influenced by the media through advanced psychological techniques. How it is a threat to Democracy.

Yes, the Nichols McChesney book is an excellent read for all journalists.

I for one am not impressed that the media is now getting on the other side of the fence. The best way to keep people buying is to sensationalize, and sell to both sides of the fence.

Posted by Ergon on 10/10/11 at 07:57 PM | #

Shill is a very kind desription of Burleigh…and to think she is educating our future media.  Jounalists today aspire to be first not right regardless of the facts.I try to track the multiple versions of a breaking story and then go back after its sorted out only to find countless examples of total disregard for the truth..all in an effort to be first to report a major story.

Norway shootings were a great example.Its sad but it won’t change in the future with anyone and everyone having a venue in the internet, twitter, utube, etc. Thanks for being here..haven’t posted since the site first went up..but it remains one of my favorites and drew me back after the latest failure of justice. Hang in there…justice will prevail!!

Posted by fotomat1 on 10/10/11 at 08:43 PM | #

Hello.  I just read most of Masei’s report. From the first pages it’s obvious why Knox and Sollecito were found to be guilty in the first trial. Anyone reading the facts (and even without considering the DNA supposedly not good enough) can “feel” the truth.

The woman in the blog “Eyes for lies” found Amanda to hide the truth from the very beginning as well. “Red flags” everywhere.

I feel so sorry for Meredith and her family as well because of the injustice.

This trial involved more than what we thought.. whether it is at a national level or international.

In the end one thing is sure. The people supporting Knox and Sollecito are her family and close people, or people who are not aware of the details of the case, or medias following the trend of the $1m PR campaign.

You should try to contact Nancy Grace. She seems to be one of the rare person in the media who for one reason or another does not believe the final trial and who is NOT willing to pay for interviews.

I don’t understand how the contradictory behavior of Knox when the police was entering the house and the “panick” she was showing when she sent the email to the people close to her makes any sense… Their cellphones off… the stage breaking of the window….

The stage breaking of the window is enough to show that Rudy was not alone there .... Come on Rudy tell the truth

Amanda: “[Kercher] had her bedroom next to mine. She was killed in our own apartment. If I had been there that night, I would be dead,” Knox told the court on Monday. “I did not kill. I did not rape. I did not steal. I wasnt there.”

This sure sounds fake…..

Posted by Z on 10/10/11 at 09:24 PM | #

I don’t have a problem with advocacy journalism. To paraphrase Edward R. Murrow, all journalism is advocacy journalism.

What I do have a problem with is when someone like Burleigh is interviewed under the caption “Nina Burleigh, XXXX magazine”, “Author” or “Journalist”—because she’s not functioning in that capacity. She’s being a pro-Knox advocate and that’s what the caption should state.

Furthermore Burleigh is supposedly an adjunct professor at CSJ. She should know better than to distort the facts to support her argument. Facts are supposed to be inviolable. Yet here she is on 48 hours supposedly quoting Guede:

“‘Amanda had nothing to do with it.’ Those are his own words.”

That’s unprofessional and if I were the Dean of CSJ I’d ask her to resign.

Posted by brmull on 10/10/11 at 09:41 PM | #

The irony is that Burleigh, who is part Iraqi, helped expose the CIA’s attempts to bribe journalists to provide pro-American coverage of the Iraq War.

The shoe is on the other foot now it seems.

Posted by brmull on 10/10/11 at 09:56 PM | #

Shame on Burleigh,  pity there are a few journalists out there who are still not convinced about Knox’s innocence.

John Follain wrote an excellent long article last Sunday in the UK Sunday Times called “Killer Questions” exposing all the evidence many other lazy and unfair journalists refuse to hear or admit.

He also has a book coming soon: Death in Perugia It is about the case.

Posted by tempusfugit on 10/10/11 at 10:43 PM | #

I think the debate of what is advocacy journalism and what is plain journalism journalism has been much blurred over the years, brmull. It is not as if the New York Times or Washington Post or any Murdoch owned paper is in a position to pontificate, given their egregious position in promoting the Iraq war, for example.

Posted by Ergon on 10/10/11 at 10:51 PM | #

One point which came up today in a private discussion was that it mirrors politics to an extent.  I didn’t want to go that route, although my politics are well known because it would distract from the main issue, which has transcended all politics and so it should.

Yet we have one side arguing from facts, unpopular with the mass of English speakers and the tone of the prose can be seen above in other comments. 

The other side argues from mantras, emotion and hysteria, calling anyone disagreeing with them “evil”, “vicious” etc. [that’s meant to be us] and going into flat denial - there is “no evidence” etc.  wishful thinking politics which loves Amanda who would never hurt a fly and all of us are rotten, hurtful, spiteful people for daring to stick to the facts.

In exactly the same way as on our political blogs, we are called uncaring, unfeeling and so on but a closer inspection shows that the character they are defending to the hilt has so many strikes against her and the murdered girl appeared to be ... well, a normal girl.

My friend said that just on that alone, it’s pretty clear where to be on this.  To be fair, two people did come in and argue [at my place] with facts against the DNA but there were answers to that, of course.

So they’re not all like the egregious FoA and yet they too - the articulate and seemingly reasonable ones - steadfastly refuse to answer any of the questions put to them.  They only wish to discuss DNA and make it the only issue.

Posted by James Higham on 10/10/11 at 11:56 PM | #

One of the things that makes the television advocacy of Burleigh and others even more unsavory is that many of these same people (or the networks/publications they are affiliated with) are vying for paid interviews/a book deal/etc. with Knox.

Naturally, the spoils will go to those who prove to be consistent and vocal advocates. Burleigh and others are also getting free advertising for their books, so even if they don’t win the race, there is a consolation prize. As for who is in the running, it is pretty easy to tell, isn’t it?

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 10/11/11 at 12:28 AM | #

mmmmm…The Kerchers are going to sue Amanda Knox

Posted by starsdad on 10/11/11 at 12:39 AM | #

Here’s the way to go….....a civil suit! Just announced.

Posted by starsdad on 10/11/11 at 12:41 AM | #

There is a documentary on the case on Irish TV tomorrow night at 10pm, TV3 midweek.

Posted by Melanie on 10/11/11 at 12:50 AM | #

Thanks for that link Starsdad! An uphill battle with some of the comments - I’d love to lock them all in a room together, fair play to Graham though well able for them all!!

Posted by Melanie on 10/11/11 at 12:58 AM | #


I saw a similar article on yahoo news. It’s also full of the so called sexual harassment by the prison guards… with quotes from Deanna to ABC News.

Hmmm, can’t really understand what they are trying to accomplish. 

Dare we hope her lawyers see a chance she will be sent back to Italy to be retried?

Only in my dreams,  I fear.

Do you really think the Kercher family will sue? And if so in what country?

Posted by Miriam on 10/11/11 at 01:06 AM | #

mmmm….it seems that newspapers running the civil suit story have withdrawn it. The Sun, The Mirror, Telegraph etc.

Posted by starsdad on 10/11/11 at 01:43 AM | #


I don’t know what country they would sue, I think it would be expensive to do so in any country other than Italy.

Posted by starsdad on 10/11/11 at 02:00 AM | #

@JusticeIsBlind - I have to admit I laughed reading the part about European loos.  I never thought we had such bad plumbing, but we also don’t have burrito buffets to properly test that. 

Bottom line - these women are crazy if they think we’ll accept the fact that AK’s lack of toilet decorum can be blamed on bad pipes. 

Lack of manners and lack of respect for her housemates is what it boils down to.  And this is yet another example of an inability to take responsibility for even the smallest things.

Posted by Vivianna on 10/11/11 at 02:09 AM | #

@JusticeIsBlind - I didn’t read any of the books because I didn’t want to be biased. I certainly wouldn’t read the book of someone like Burleigh who studied the case less than I have. Thank goodness for Massei.

@starsdad - The misuderstanding may have come from the Kercher’s appealing their civil suit to the Cassazione. That’s all I can figure.

@Miriam - Don’t want to be too cynical about sexual harrassment claims, but I can’t help wondering if it’s being played up to sell an otherwise boring prison story. Knox was writing her memoirs *while* she was in prison, so there was plenty of incentive to manufacture crises to spice up the book.

Posted by brmull on 10/11/11 at 02:40 AM | #

Hi All. I am one of the many many people who have been visiting this site regularly in the last few years but never posted. However, since justice has been denied, I think all the people like me should start joining such discussions.

This is the only way to make our voice heard against the PR machinery. The verdict of the appeal disturbed me greatly and I had a few sleepless nights thinking about the Kerchers. Now, I have started forwarding links to all the people I know and have changed all my Avatars to Meredith’s photo.

I have to say that Nina Burleigh is not alone in throwing objective journalism to the air. Some of the coverage by the American media throughout the trial has been so biased that I have often felt like throwing something at the monitor.

In fact, not only the media but even the people who support AK and RS act as if they belong to some cult. They absolutely refuse to listen to anyone else and everytime I have attempted to say something on one of the support forums, either I have got nasty comments like “You have no life, you are an idiot, you are jealous” etc or my comments have not even been published. On the other hand, on every forum that supports Meredith, people are far more civilized and dignified even when someone contradicts them.

Makes me wonder if all the people posting on the support forums are paid shills because I cannot imagine normal, rational people behaving like that. One thing I want to say though - I have often observed that people who try to support Meredith on the support forums raise points like her false confession, her behavior etc. Even Barbie’s article about unanswered questions focused mostly on these issues.

While I agree that these points are definite indicators of her guilt to anyone sane enough to think about them, we need to remember that the PR machinery has brainwashed many people into believing that they were innocent actions of a tensed person. So, we need to start raising other questions for which they do not have an answer.

For instance, why did Amanda claim that she was totally panicking about Meredith in her email while the postal police say that she was very calm and actually told them it was normal for Meredith to lock her door? Why did Raffeale try to explain away the DNA on the knife with a fantasy about cooking together (He was not even being questioned actively when he made up the story to attribute it to duress. If Guede was acting alone, what was his motive? He seems to have neither succeeded in raping or stealing to a great extent. (Also, I know that there was a blonde hair clutched in Meredith’s hand which appeared visually like a match for Amanda’s hair but it seems to have vanished so I don’t know if we can talk about it)

I don’t know if these things make sense or if they will even help in anyway. But considering the fact that Amanda is unlikely to ever come back to Italy and Guede is unlikely to speak up, I think the only things people like me can do are to raise doubts about Amanda and Raffeale’s guilt as much as possible and to keep Meredith’s memory alive. Which is what I am going to try and do.

By the way, someone said Meredith has won hearts all over the world…that’s so true. I am from India and I have friends in places like Dubai and Australia who believe the same as me. People everywhere feel for Meredith and I think it’s time we start speaking out.

Posted by Sara on 10/11/11 at 04:03 AM | #

Hello to All,

Like others I am also a new poster. I haven’t constantly followed the trial, but did take a deeper interest this past week with the verdict reversal.

I was lucky to stumble upon this site only recently and want to offer ‘molte grazie’ to all who have put up so much effort and time, especially in the very difficult translations of overly legalese Italian documents (Micheli and Massei reports in particular.)

I don’t have specific comments relative to this thread, but do have three questions.

1. Are there any published police reports (those ‘10,000 pages’) that list other evidence found?

2. Are there any transcripts of Guede’s first trial? Especially any transcriptions of any cross-examinations of his testimony?

3. Also, is it legally possible for John Kercher to visit Rudy Guede and perhaps interview him directly to get at the truth?

I ask because, while I don’t agree with Giudice Hellmann’s reversal, I do agree with him that Guede is the one who holds the key to the ‘real reality’ of what happened that terrible night.

Also, I believe Guede will now be more likely open to telling the actual complete truth. (Personally I believe his story is a concoction of false and true bits.)

Perhaps visiting Guede might not be fruitful, but I would imagine for the Kercher’s that knowing the truth, or a truth that solidly coalesces the current evidence, would be helpful.

Posted by Marcello on 10/11/11 at 06:15 AM | #

Hi Sara,

I agree that it’s important to focus on these unanswered questions and well as present an affirmative theory that explains all the evidence. This can be hard to do in a comment so it would be helpful to be able to link back to resources here that clearly and concisely answer the frequently asked questions. I think people are working on that.

Regarding the blonde hair, this is something that Nadeau mentioned initially. I heard it was lost. I don’t know if there are any photos, or what its status is now. Pro-Knox people complain endlessly about why this or that wasn’t collected or wasn’t tested.

I think it illustrates why the police—although they should keep an open mind—don’t want to go collecting evidence willy-nilly. They would end up with a bunch of false leads which will inevitably be exploited in court. Most likely any blonde hair was from one of Meredith’s friends or perhaps a prior occupant of the room. To my eye Knox doesn’t have blonde hair.

Posted by brmull on 10/11/11 at 08:47 AM | #

Hi Marcello,

Somebody said that in Italy evidence and trial transcripts are not made public. An Italian would know better than I would. As far as I know Guede gave only spontaneous statements in his trial, which cannot be cross-examined. His various statements are available here and elsewhere. There does seem to be a trend in these statements to revealing more and more about Knox and Sollecito’s role. I think he’s walking a fine line legally and personal safety-wise. The Kerchers are also walking a fine line legally, but I think they know the truth, as we all do.

Posted by brmull on 10/11/11 at 09:06 AM | #

I’m in Germany in the moment, and coverage of the appeal has been generally low-key here. But last night RTL—one of the main TV channels - showed a sort of “reconstruction” of the murder that made my blood boil. It was even worse than most of the media reports—basically, it said that the appeal revealed that the double DNA knife “was not” the murder weapon, and that Amanda and Raffaele definitely “could not” have been the murderers, that they HAD to be released!

The “report” merely skimmed over evidence such as the staged break-in and the blood traces in the appartment, and dismissed the accusation of Lumumba as desperation (they had a voice-over of Amanda (or maybe an actress?) whining about how desperate and panicked she was, and showed an actress acting out that panic. One or two “experts” commented in favour of Amanda.

This is very depressing, considering that RTL is one of the main private channels here and millions willl have watched it. As far as I know there is no German-language equivalent of TJMK or PMF so I guess that most Germans won’t have researched beyond what the media serves up.

Very sad indeed.

Posted by lamaha on 10/11/11 at 09:43 AM | #

[This responds to a comment which Universal Peace asked to be removed. We did not press him.]

@ Universal Peace:
I don’t doubt your sincerity in the least, and in fact my own beliefs are similar to yours, as I have practiced a version of Indian meditation for over 40 years. I take it that you are rather young? Then you might accept a word of advice from me: these things are usually better left unsaid on public forums. Quite probably the Kerchers have their own strategies for dealing with their grief; we should not think that they are just waiting for our words of wisdom! It is quite enough to reach out to them in our hearts and minds, silently. Everything else tends to sound like preaching.

Posted by lamaha on 10/11/11 at 10:50 AM | #

[This responds to a comment which Universal Peace asked to be removed. We did not press him.]

@Universal Peace

“If you are being sarcastic about my attempt . . . . . , then I will not stoop to your level.

As far as I’m concerend, pmembers of this forum are able to absorb a lot of pain and frustration. In my experience they are really caring, even about FOA, when about their lack of information. There is no need to put yourself or another person on a level.

@ lamaha

40 years . . . . wow 😉

Posted by Helder Licht on 10/11/11 at 11:58 AM | #

@ Sara

I agree with you 100% that there is a distinct difference with the online demeanour of AK + RS supporters, as opposed to those who believe in their guilt.

AK + RS innocence posters often are often aggressive and resort to a personal attack on anyone with a different viewpoint to their own.

It is just the behaviour of bullies - who will try to shout you down and run you over - in order to avoid discussing the point at hand.

The newspaper reporting is horribly biased as many have pointed out. I was reading a Sydney newspaper on the weekend which failed to mention Knox slandered Lumumba and got 3 years conviction for this. Also, they claimed Guede was in the bathroom with his IPad rather than his Ipod !

Its still hard to digest the verdict - it just seemed to easy for AK and RS to lie their way through the case and confuse the “stupid police”......

Posted by gabster1971 on 10/11/11 at 12:08 PM | #

@ Universal Peace:
I don’t doubt your sincerity in the least, and in fact my own beliefs are similar to yours, as I have practiced a version of Indian meditation for over 40 years. I take it that you are rather young? Then you might accept a word of advice from me: these things are usually better left unsaid on public forums. Quite probably the Kerchers have their own strategies for dealing with their grief; we should not think that they are just waiting for our words of wisdom! It is quite enough to reach out to them in our hearts and minds, silently. Everything else tends to sound like preaching.

Posted by lamaha on 10/11/11 at 12:22 PM | #

It’s not just the foreign media, the UK is as bad. I wrote to ‘Daybreak’ last week due to their slovenly reporting. I pointed out to them that their last Knox outing [an interview with a tearful Curt & Edda duo] that prompted John Kercher to break a [then] three year silence. The mentioned that a ‘coloured’ man had been in prison ‘for a while but was then released’, not a word about how he got there!! And to think JOhn Kercher Snr and Jnr were both in the UK that day, possibly watching the programme, it beggars belief!

Posted by Melanie on 10/11/11 at 12:41 PM | #

Blog post which I think would interest readers here.  It seems to me reading news following the verdict that the accepted view is that Knox got away with murder. She may be a celebrity in Seattle but I don’t recommend that Knox ventures further than Washington State unless her skin is thick enough to listen to people shout murderer where ever she goes.

Posted by daisysteiner on 10/11/11 at 01:15 PM | #

[This responds to a comment which Universal Peace asked to be removed. We did not press him.]

@ Universal Peace:

I don’t doubt your sincerity in the least, and in fact my own beliefs are similar to yours, as I have practiced a version of Indian meditation for over 40 years. I take it that you are rather young? Then you might accept a word of advice from me: these things are usually better left unsaid on public forums. Quite probably the Kerchers have their own strategies for dealing with their grief; we should not think that they are just waiting for our words of wisdom! It is quite enough to reach out to them in our hearts and minds, silently. Everything else tends to sound like preaching.

Posted by lamaha on 10/11/11 at 01:33 PM | #

@brmull: There is a photo of the hair clutched in Meredith’s hand (left I think) among the crime scene photos in PMF. I tried to link it here but the gallery is no longer showing up, not sure why. Maybe it is visible to members so if you are registered there you can have a look.

As far as I remember, it was not a hair which was found randomly in the room but was found in Meredith’s hand. I see what you mean about blonde hair but then if you look at Amanda’s hair during the early days of murder (esp in the ones near the cottage where she and Raffeale are kissing), she does appear to have blondish hair. I don’t know if its a trick of light or she had colored it at that time. Infact, even in FOA, they describe her as a “dark blonde”.

I am not saying it was hers, only that it would’nt have done any harm to test it. Because it was found in Meredith’s hand. People don’t go around clutching their friend’s hairs in their hands right? Of course, it might have been lying on the floor somewhere and Meredith might have just grabbed it but anyway all that’s moot point now because you as you rightly said, it was lost. So no point discussing too much about it.

Posted by Sara on 10/11/11 at 02:25 PM | #

@Sara - there was a discussion on PMF about the “blonde hair,” as many of us wanted to know what happened to it.  Some said that it could have been textile fibers, some of which can be practically indistinguishable from human hair.  The Gallery should not be visible to non-members anymore, but you can write Skeptical_Bystander if you want to register. 

@Marcello - While your best bet is to inquire locally, PMF has an archive called “In Their Own Words” which contains statements all of them have given throughout the years, along with some personal writings which were made public.

Posted by Vivianna on 10/11/11 at 03:13 PM | #
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