Reporter Reflects on Covering Bizarre Case Featured in ‘Making a Murderer’

By Chris Ariens Comment

For most people who’ve watched the documentary Making a Murderer the 10-part true crime story is almost too hard to believe.

For those who covered the case–the crime, two trials and multiple appeals–the Netflix series is all too real, and is bringing back vivid memories of one of the most sensational, yet underreported criminal cases of the last decade.

In short, Making a Murderer follows the story of Steven Avery, who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. On Oct. 31, 2005, two years after his exoneration, and on the very day the Wisconsin legislature passed a law to protect against wrongful convictions, a woman disappears, and Steven Avery’s hard-won freedom is in jeopardy again.

After reading a story in the New York Times about the case, filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi began a 10-year odyssey documenting the shocking twists and grueling turns in Avery’s story.

Emily Matesic (at right in photo above) was the lead reporter for WBAY, the Green Bay, Wisc., ABC affiliate. Matesic is featured prominently, along with more than a dozen other TV reporters from the Green Bay and Milwaukee markets. We caught up with her a few days after the documentary debuted on Netflix. (Spoilers ahead)

TVSpy: When did you first get word that Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi were producing a documentary about the Avery case?

Matesic: From the first time I met Moira and Laura, in either November or December of 2005, I learned they were interested in producing a documentary on the case.

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TVSpy: What did you think of the finished product?

Matesic: I give Moira and Laura a lot of credit for the amount of work they put in to their finished product. I know they recorded hours and hours of footage from all of the hearings and the two trials and the news conferences and what appears to be separate interviews with mostly the Avery family/friends and Steven Avery’s defense team. I get tired just thinking of the time I spent covering the story and I can’t believe all of the time they’ve put in since then. It is a compelling story which of course leads to a compelling series.

TVSpy: Did you realize at the time, the surreal nature of this story?

Matesic: As I was covering the story, I knew it was a big deal, especially for Northeast Wisconsin. But I didn’t get caught up in the moment and instead just did my job day in and day out. For me, looking back and watching the series is what’s surreal. It was weird watching the story unfold all over again, knowing I’ve covered it for more than 10 years now. I like knowing the ins and out of the story and what wasn’t covered in the series.

TVSpy: Because it does not have a narrator, local media clips are crucial to piecing the story together. But were you surprised how much local TV news coverage was used?

Matesic: I expected some to be in the finished product and I don’t know if I had an expectation of how much was going to be used. At the time, Laura and Moira would ask if we minded if they would shoot video of us while we were doing our lives shots. If anything, it was fun to see the familiar faces of other reporters and myself from 10 years ago.

TVSpy: Did you spend any time with Demos and Ricciardi to get the sense of the point of view the documentary was going to take?

Matesic: They told all the local media they were filmmakers from New York City and were interested in telling the story. Early on it was obvious they had formed relationships with the Avery defense team and his family/friends, so I figured the story they told would probably be more from the defense POV than from the prosecution.

TVSpy: How is the documentary itself playing as a story on the news in Green Bay the past few days?

Matesic: Much like the cases against Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, the Netflix series has been big news. I believe all of the stations have covered stories related to it. Moira and Laura made themselves available for phone interviews with the local media (on Tuesday). I know my station and WLUK did stories with them.

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TVSpy: What happened to some of the other reporters. Do you have a sense of where they moved on to?

Matesic: There were a lot of familiar faces in the series. As I look back, I think a few reporters moved on to other markets, many of them left the business, a couple retired, and I know at least one has passed away since the trials ended. Seeing that reporter, who was a very close friend of mine, “working again” was bittersweet.

TVSpy: There’s one scene at the end of the 9th episode where the mother of Brendan Dassey lashes out at the media. Were you there that night? And how would you characterize the media’s coverage of the trials?

Matesic: I was most definitely there for that night. I remember it very vividly. In fact, as I was watching the series and it was getting closer to the Dassey verdict, I said to my boyfriend, “I wonder if they’ll include the night Brendan Dassey’s mother tore out of the courthouse and started banging on her car, screaming and yelling?” Needless to say, it was a trip down memory lane watching it play out again.

As for the media’s coverage, it was all hands on deck. Many TV stations had multiple reporters covering the case. The newspapers and radio stations fully staffed the trials too. For this area, other than the Packers in a Super Bowl, I’d say the Avery/Dassey cases were the biggest news stories to hit the area in the 10+ years I’ve worked here.

Here is the first episode of Making a Murderer:

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