With the arrest of a suspect in the decade-old murder of JonBenet Ramsey in Colorado, brace yourself for another media circus. Before the frenzy gets out of control a second time, the media should take a collective breath.
This unsolved mystery of a brutal slaying was a textbook example of the press run amok. We should know better now and act with restraint.
The speculation and rumors after the murder led to the suspicion that her parents were somehow involved or even killed her. No charge was ever filed, but the Ramseys were hounded nevertheless.
The media can share the blame with zealous law enforcement officials in Boulder who were eager to spread the word that they were making progress in a celebrated national case.
The 24/7 news cycle, especially in cable news outlets, helped spread rumors and keep the case in constant turmoil.
However, the media then and now should not carry the message of rumor spreaders. The mainstream press has an obligation to cover the story with professional restraint.
Verification got loose in the drive to publish or air the latest bit of so-called evidence. Either reporters got carried away with the moment or their editors pushed them too hard, or perhaps a combination of both.
Perhaps this new round of stories will follow a more rational approach, since there are already holes in the alleged confession by the suspect in Thailand.
Long ago, reporters repeatedly learned that speculation of a charge or indictment was out of bounds. Names did not appear unless formal action was taken.
Too often that standard is violated today. We in the media are often upset by polls that show that readers and viewers have limited confidence in us.
The temptation to run with a story before facts are established is prevalent. But we need to avoid that temptation with renewed vigor. Don't publish or air material just because a story is "out there" in an unreliable way.
Let the irresponsible do it, but let's be professional in this new round of frenzy over JonBenet's murder.