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From the Archives: Sound Bite Society, New Yorker article - June 5, 1995

Talk story about a party thrown for journalists covering the O.J. Simpson trial. It hasn't been the best of times lately for the folks who cover the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial. Weeks of tedious scientific testimony have sapped public interest in the case; Judge Lance A. Ito evicted two reporters from the courtroom for talking too much; and when one of the lawyers referred to the throng of analysts commenting on the case in the media Judge Ito replied, "Your first mistake is to listen to the commentators." Clearly, a response was needed. How about a party?

"I call this group the commentariat," said Charles B. Rosenberg, who volunteered his home in West L.A. for the event. Rosenberg, a lawyer who used to be the legal consultant to "L.A. Law," pontificates on O.J. for E! Entertainment Television. As he fussed over a pot of vegetarian chili in his kitchen, many of those who have uttered the immortal words "It's been a good day for the prosecution" or "The defense really scored some points today" gathered in his living room. Guests included Roger Cossack of CNN, David Margolick of the Times, Kathleen Sullivan of E!, and the likely O.J. sound-bite champion--Laurie Levenson, of Loyola Law School and CBS. (Last month, Levenson herself held a seder that included some O.J. reporters who were far from home but close, they hoped, to God.)

The evening's entertainment was tailored to the crowd. "O.K.," one celebrator challenged another, "name all the dogs mentioned in testimony so far." Rosenberg circulated with pad and pencil and took a poll on the eventual verdict in the trial (with anonymity of the individual replies guaranteed).

The tally? Twelve oracles predicted a hung jury, six said conviction, three refused to answer, and one bet on acquittal. "That," Rosenberg did confide, "was me."

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