John Leo
The journalism reviews should (but probably won't) rate the news media on their handling of the Cincinnati riots. If they did, a lot of C-minus marks would be handed out.

The New York Times, for example, couldn't even bring itself to use the "r" word. Instead of "riots" it talked of "sporadic protests and vandalism." This doesn't quite catch the flavor of bricks being heaved through windshields at the heads of motorists, more than a hundred homes and businesses set on fire, or "the bullets whizzing by my head," as one resident put it.

The Times mentioned that a police officer was "reported grazed" by a bullet. In fact, a sniper shot him in the stomach, but the bullet deflected harmlessly off his belt buckle up into his clothing. The Times said groups of young black men had "alarmed whites." "'Alarmed' is a curious euphemism for what these gangs of rioters were doing to whites," the Smartertimes Web site said. The Cincinnati Enquirer offered a more direct account: "A mob of black youths ... dragged a white woman out of her car ... and into the street, beating her until other neighborhood residents rescued her. Kim Brown, an Avondale resident, ... said members of the mob pulled the woman out of the car and 'started busting her up.'" Another driver assaulted by the mob was Roslyn Jones, an albino black woman, hit by a hail of bricks, one of which struck her in the head. The attack stopped when someone shouted, "She's black!" One witness said: "It was a night of white terror. It turned from a police issue to a black-white issue."

Because the Times smothered the news instead of reporting it, readers had almost no clue about the ferocity of what was happening in Cincinnati. Honest accounts of the rioting were hard to find elsewhere, too. Maybe reporters were holding back because they didn't want to inflame a bad situation. Or maybe they thought the rioters had a point because the police killing of Timothy Thomas doesn't look at all like a justified shooting. Unarmed, Thomas was by most accounts a harmless scofflaw.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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