Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Media - Accountable to Whom?

Early media images of a young Trayvon Martin helped shape coverage.(Photo: Handout via AP)
The storyline quickly took root, amplified by the nearly ubiquitous images of the two: a sweet-looking photo of a several-years-younger Trayvon released by his family, and a mug shot of Zimmerman from a previous arrest in which he looks puffy and downcast. The contrasting images powerfully reinforced the images of the menacing bully and the innocent victim.

Some of the media's major mistakes stemmed from stories that fit neatly into that widely accepted narrative. NBC News edited Zimmerman's comments during a phone call to inaccurately suggest that he volunteered that Trayvon seemed suspicious because he was black. In fact, Zimmerman was responding to a question when he mentioned the teenager's race. The network apologized for the error.

Similarly, ABC News broadcast a story reporting that a police surveillance video showed no evidence that Zimmerman suffered abrasions or bled during the confrontation with Trayvon. Shortly thereafter, it "clarified" the situation, reporting that an enhanced version of the video showed Zimmerman with "an injury to the back of his head."

When it emerged that Zimmerman's mother was Peruvian, some news outlets took to referring to him with the rarely used phrase "white Hispanic," which is kind of like calling President Obama "white black."

Does journalism exist as a profession? Like the reputation of lawyers, they seem to exist only to hurt others to benefit themselves. Those who make fools of themselves delivering stories that are "good" but not true - do they pay a price?

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