I never thought the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case deserved nearly the attention it got. But reasonable people can disagree about that. What strikes me as unconscionable, however, is the way the supposedly objective media have not only sensationalized a tragedy but at times appear to deliberately bend the facts to fit a desired story line. Maybe it started with the use of pictures of a younger Martin or with the sudden embrace of the term "white Hispanic" to describe Zimmerman in order to more easily paint him as a racist.
NBC News was the most egregious offender on this score. Producers edited Zimmerman's 911 call to make it sound as if he were targeting Martin because of his race. The "Today" show ran audio of Zimmerman saying, "This guy looks like he's up to no good ... he looks black." Those ellipses hide the fact Zimmerman said "he looks black" only after the operator asked him to describe Martin. (NBC has apologized, and Zimmerman is suing.)
Any hope that the editorializing would end with the trial was naive. National Public Radio recently profiled Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother. In response to the tragedy and the trial, Fulton has become a civil rights activist, NPR reported.
It was a deferential piece, and understandably so. Who wants to add to the woman's pain? But there's a difference between deference and advocacy. In a speech to the National Urban League, Fulton said her son was killed "all because of a law, a law that has prevented the person who shot and killed my son to be held accountable and to pay for this awful crime."
And how did NPR's Greg Allen put that statement in context? He told listeners: "Fulton is one of many pushing for a repeal of Florida's 'stand your ground' law." He noted that sit-ins have been staged but that the Florida governor remains "unmoved." And that was it.
Allen then went on to report that one of the jurors told ABC News, "George Zimmerman got away with murder but you can't get away from God." We owe that revelation to ABC's interview with Juror B29, a.k.a. "Maddy." The sole nonwhite juror in the case, Maddy made that remark to ABC's Robin Roberts. The quote went viral across electronic and print media.
The only problem: It's not clear that's what she thinks. As Will Saletan of Slate magazine notes, the video was artfully edited to make it appear as if Maddy generated this thought on her own. But when you watch an unedited segment, she's repeating back a statement by Roberts, and ABC News was happy to let the misinterpretation stand.
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