Hamish McKenzie on West of Memphis

At The Atlantic: The Unsettling Recklessness of Peter Jackson’s ‘West of Memphis’ by Hamish McKenzie.

McKenzie criticizes the film for its hypocritical and reckless treatment of Terry Hobbs. So far, so good. This level of skepticism places McKenzie in the top 1% of mainstream journalists covering this case.

Ultimately I find the article aggravating, however. McKenzie wrote a pretty good piece (PDF) about the West Memphis Three for the South China Morning Post in 2011. In that piece, he at least considered the possibility that the WM3 were guilty and mentioned some of the evidence missing from the Paradise Lost films. In the Atlantic piece, however, McKenzie states that the WM3 were victims of “injustice” but have now been “exonerated”. To be fair, his opening line states that the WM3 were “convicted, perhaps wrongly” — and pro-WM3 commenters jump down his throat for that tiny sacrilege — but overall the piece takes for granted that the WM3 were innocent and railroaded on flimsy evidence.

Is there some journalistic taboo against mentioning the overwhelming evidence of the WM3’s guilt? Even if a journalist is not 100% convinced of the WM3’s guilt, wouldn’t a balanced “on the one hand, on the other hand” approach call for mentioning Jessie Misskelley’s multiple confessions and questioning why all the documentaries exclude them?