The O.J. Press Corps: Withdrawal, Anticlimax on the Day After
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ For nearly 16 months, the hordes of journalists following every twist and turn of the O.J. Simpson story packed news conferences and courtrooms. On Wednesday, they just packed.
It was time to strike Camp O.J., as the electronic media encampment near the courthouse is known.
``Thank God this is over with,″ said Gary Sunkin, a free-lance cameraman and engineer. ``Now we go back to doing real news.″
Others were sorrier to say goodbye to the encampment, an Erector Set-like tangle of scaffolding and TV trucks set up in a parking lot, where scores of news agencies and hundreds of reporters had staked out space.
``It’s been so intense for the last nine months and pretty intense for the last 15 months, and then to have it yanked like that was pretty unexpected,″ Mitchell Pietz, a free-lance engineer working for Court TV, said as he coiled wires.
Still, there was no large-scale departure from Camp O.J., perhaps a sign that the media weren’t ready to pull the plug on the Simpson story.
Across the street at the Criminal Courts Building, things were much quieter.
On the ninth floor, the door to Judge Lance Ito’s courtroom was locked.
On the 12th floor, which had teemed with reporters and equipment, there was a serene hush. Cables dangled from the ceiling like tired party decorations.
``It feels like the day after a storm or something,″ CBS radio anchorman David Dow said in a TV interview on a story about the end of The Story.
Offices were deserted; phones rang unanswered, and a TV set replayed footage of the verdict to an empty room. The booth housing the all-important ``kill switch″ _ two red buttons that controlled the audio and video feeds from the courtroom to TVs across the nation _ was empty.
``Bye Bye From Club OJ, Thanks,″ was scrawled across a yellow legal pad.
On the 18th floor, home to the District Attorney’s Office, floral arrangements decorated some quarters, and more bouquets were being wheeled in _ tributes meant to ease the sting of Tuesday’s big loss.
As for prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden, office spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said she had not seen them.
With the end of the case, Pietz will have to look for a new job. He is also looking forward to spending some time with his wife, Sandie, also a Court TV employee.
They married during the trial. Pietz said with a laugh that he had imposed an O.J. ban at home.
The total cost of the camp, organized by the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California, is expected to be about $1.75 million, said Carolyn Fox, executive director.
Fox said she expects the camp to revert to a parking lot by Monday.