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Becoming part of the story

WBAY-TV reporter Emily Matesic ’99 shares insights about the case that inspired the Netflix original series “Making a Murderer.”

By Kyle Lubinsky ’17

After working in broadcast journalism for more than 15 years, Emily Matesic ’99 is used to being in the spotlight.

But nothing compares to the media attention she has received since Dec. 18, the date Netflix released a new crime series, Making a Murderer. The 10-part documentary follows the case of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Two years after his release, Teresa Halbach disappeared, and Avery’s freedom was again in question.

Because Matesic was the lead reporter for Green Bay’s ABC affiliate, the outlet that initially covered the story, she is featured extensively in the documentary, which has stirred some controversy. “I am really shocked at all of the attention that’s come with the release of the series,” she says. “I’ve gotten lots of interview requests from publications and shows around the world.” The Magazine of Elon asked Matesic to share some insights into the case, the series and what it all means for her as a reporter.

How did you initially get involved in covering the Steven Avery case?

I started working at WBAY-TV in Green Bay, Wis., in August of 2005. Teresa Halbach was reported missing in November of that year. I was working the day her vehicle was found on the Avery salvage yard property. A week later, authorities said they would be charging him with her murder. The following day, I conducted a jailhouse interview with Avery about the impending charges and from there on out, I led my station’s coverage of the case.  I covered every pre-trial hearing, all six weeks of his trial as well as his sentencing.

How did you feel when you found out there was a documentary being made about the case?

I knew the two producers of the Netflix series were hoping to create something out of the Avery case. They relocated to Wisconsin from New York to cover the story back in 2005. After the trials and sentencing for both Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, I honestly didn’t think much of the two women and their project. Needless to say, I was shocked when Netflix put out a news release saying the series would be released—10 years after the fact.

Did you feel the documentary accurately portrayed the facts of the case?

I’ve said from the very beginning, the story of Steven Avery and his wrongful conviction followed by his exoneration, only to be charged with yet another violent crime is very compelling. I give the Netflix producers credit. They condensed hundreds of hours of testimony and nearly a thousand pieces of evidence into 10 hours. That could not have been easy. With that said, they only had 10 hours and, therefore, couldn’t and didn’t include everything that was presented at trial. The juries at both trials heard all of the evidence and reached their verdicts based on that, not just what’s included in the Netflix series.

What did covering the Avery case teach you about being a journalist?

I had been working as a reporter for more than five years when I started to cover the Avery case. I don’t know if it necessarily taught me anything about being a journalist because I like to think I do a pretty good job of that every day, but I guess this situation has taught me that you never know where a story you cover is going to lead you.

Keren Rivas,
2/8/2016 10:30 AM