World-renowned speakers from the communication field spoke about the cultural revolution in China, women in journalism, as well as the Amanda Knox trial during the 2012 Edward R. Murrow Symposium.
“The media was an enemy at the beginning ... but became our only ally at the end because some journalists did their job - a tough job,” said David Marriott, who presented to a full room of about 100 people about his public relations work for the family of Amanda Knox.
His job was dealing with the media during Knox’s imprisonment in Italy.
“We try to end (the symposium) with a keynote from someone who embodies what we hope our students are aspiring to,” said Lawrence Pintak, founding dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
Marriott, an Emmy award-winning television reporter and former press secretary for the mayor of Seattle, began his address by reading pieces of an ABC news story that detailed the judge’s findings in Amanda Knox’s appeal.
Marriott said the initial guilty verdict was not corroborated by sufficient evidence because the prosecution brought forth faulty DNA, no murder weapon and no motive.
“The question that I would ask you is, ‘why did it take four years to get (to that conclusion),’” Marriott said, “and how in the world did this happen in the first place?”
Knox was accused of the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy in 2007, where Knox was living as an exchange student. Knox served four years of a 26-year sentence before the guilty verdict was overturned in October 2011.
“My personal opinion is that (her conviction) happened because of an over-aggressive prosecutor... and a tabloid media in Italy that will write anything,” Marriott said.
He explained that in Italy, the accused individual can be held for one year without being charged for a crime, which is what happened to Knox.
When she was arrested, the crime scene had not been fully processed and Knox had been questioned for 15 hours straight.
Later, however, the forensics concluded that the DNA of Rudy Guede, the individual later convicted for Kercher’s death, was all over the room, Marriott said.
Marriott also described the family’s difficulties with the media during the trial.
“There were leaks (to the press by the prosecution) that would support the picture they were trying to paint about who Amanda Knox really was,” Marriott said. “Information was taken out of context.”
Also, Marriott explained, in Italy, one who is involved in a criminal case can sell their interview to the media.
Marriott also said the family was constantly worried about being wiretapped and being under surveillance. To avoid being overheard, sometimes the family and their lawyers would have conversations in the street instead of their home.
Marriott finished his speech with a piece of advice to audience members pursuing journalism.
“For all of you who may be studying that profession, do your work, do it well, don’t let this happen,” Marriott said.
Another speaker, Marilyn Berger, spoke on Tuesday about her long career as a print and broadcast journalist.
“As a reporter, you’re always at the right place at the right time,” she said. “It’s what you do when you’re in that place that separates the sheep from the goats.”
Berger told stories about interviewing King Hussein of Jordan and forgetting to bring a pen, as well stories about working on Henry Kissinger’s press plane.
She told students to find a field that they care about and are interested in. She said she is a great believer that writers need an editor.
Berger also hosted a book signing for “This Is a Soul,” which documents Dr. Rick Hodes’ journey to Africa to help sick children.
The other days of the symposium featured workshops that included resume critiques, tips on getting an advertising job, and creating and sustaining a public relations firm.