True-Crime Podcasters Insist They 'Honor' Victims. It's a Lie

Annie Nichol, sister of the murdered Polly Klaas, slams the genre
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2024 6:40 PM CST
Sister of Famed Murder Victim: True Crime Is Exploitive
In this 1993 file photo, 12-year-old Polly Klaas of Petaluma, California, is shown.   (AP Photo)

If you're into true crime, you're not alone, as evidenced by the plethora of podcasts, books, and programs dedicated to the topic. One person who doesn't love this "obsession" with the genre: Annie Nichol, the sister of murder victim Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old Californian who was abducted and killed in 1993, and whose case spurred a "media frenzy." In an op-ed for the New York Times, Nichol details the pain of losing her older sister (Nichol was only 6 at the time of Polly's murder) and pushes back at the narrative that the true-crime genre "honors" victims and their families, or aids those still trying to solve cold cases. Instead, Nichol notes the "steep cost" for crime victims' families "as their tragedies are commodified and their privacy repeatedly violated for mass consumption." Nichol writes that those who've covered her sister's case never got her OK, though they've poked her for "memories."

"How could I explain to these writers and producers that my memories of Polly are the only things I have left of her that haven't been exploited or extracted for public consumption?" she writes. Nichol also notes that even though Polly's killer was caught and convicted, "it was difficult for me to feel a sense of justice"—especially as her sister's murder helped in part to launch California's "three strikes" law, which Nichol says has disproportionally targeted people of color, as well as those with physical disabilities and mental illness. She writes that true-crime narratives can also falsely inflate public perception on national crime rates, which have long been on the decline. "The exploitation and erasure that slant true crime's bias toward sensational violence undermine our ability to address the systemic root causes of harm while estranging us from our empathy toward marginalized victims most affected by crime," Nichol writes. Read her piece in full here. (More true crime stories.)

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