Cold case or today’s news?


Declaring missing Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Denise Smart dead 14 years ago after her 1996 disappearance, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, along with the FBI, reopened her case Tuesday.

After receiving a tip relating to Smart’s disappearance, authorities once again plunged head first into the investigation. Investigators have pinpointed three spots around campus, where she was last seen alive, that they plan to dig up in an effort to find her body.

The news media coverage of this case poses an interesting question: What is the fascination with reopening cold cases?

Anyone who has ever waited in line at the supermarket has seen it. Whenever a case goes cold, media are determined to continue reporting and updating stories. Tabloids and newspapers release articles and updates about the JonBenét Ramsey case all the time, despite her disappearance occurring almost 20 years ago.

So who is at fault: the news media or news consumers? If no one was buying the tabloids featuring cold cases with so-called new evidence and insider scoops, the media would have no choice but to cease reporting on them.

So this places fault on consumers who eat up that type of news and sensational stories. But, then again, aren’t they simply reading what the media put out there?

It’s only human to strive to find answers and receive closure, especially when it comes to losing a loved one. But when does reopening a cold case go from a burning desire to find answers and keep up to date on the latest gossip to pouring salt in a wound that was finally close to healing?

Perhaps, rather than drawing attention to old news, media should live in the now and keep things as current as possible. Not only would this give families the opportunity to grieve in private, but it would also inform the public about current rather than past events.