There’s a lot of talk going on in Orlando newsrooms about how the recently wrapped Casey Anthony trial stacks up in terms of big stories reporters have covered in their careers. Speaking to a half dozen or so of them, I found that about half put it at the top of their list.
A few said Sept. 11 was a bigger story at the outlets they were working for in 2001. WOFL news director Jeff Zeller was in Pittsburgh, not far from where Flight 93 went down. WKMG news director Steve Hyvonen was at MSNBC. “I can’t imagine anything topping that,” he says. “But [Casey Anthony] ranks right after Sept. 11.”
Others said the Anthony trial is the biggest local story since central Florida had a trio of nasty hurricanes in the summer of 2004.
But several said the degree of interest in Casey Anthony’s murder trial surpasses everything they’ve seen in their careers. “I’ve been doing this a while, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a story that lasts this long and has this much interest,” says. WESH GM Jim Carter.
This one had all the elements of an ideal big-splash news story, say the Orlando news vets: the baby, the young mother, charismatic lawyers, a quirky judge, a dysfunctional family. The courthouse’s professional and timely flow of information to news outlets helped sustain the interest level, as did social media platforms that allowed everyone to feel like they were part of the proceedings.
“In my  years in the business, I’ve never seen this level of interest,” says Robin Smythe, VP and GM at Bright House’s News 13. “What’s most fascinating is the deep and wide the interest is with viewers.”