In Defense of Cable News' Trayvon Martin Spectacle

Disagreeing with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic argues that cable news' copious coverage of Trayvon Martin was a good thing.

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The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates is a longtime fan of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show but found himself disagreeing with the comedian this week. In a recent skit, Stewart skewered the American news media for its coverage of the killing of Trayvon Martin. Coates argues that if it weren't for the media blitz that these outlets provided, most Americans wouldn't know about Martin at all.

The standard Daily Show formula is to show the media doing ridiculous things. The Trayvon Martin case has certainly seen its share of that. Talk show hosts in hoodies, or interviewing empty chairs are certainly fodder for comedic send-up. But in this case, beneath the routine (and correct) truth that media over-reports and under-informs, that it manufactures news, is the fact that without the media, much of this country would never have heard of Trayvon Martin.

Surely they did it in their own flawed way. But as someone who worked this story, when only a few other reporters were paying attention, I have to say that the spectacle, and the attention which followed, worked for the good. It was the spectacle that drew the attention of Rick Scott. It was the spectacle that drew the attention of Barack Obama. Without the spectacle you don't get attention, and without attention, the legacy of Trayvon Martin is left to the hands of the Sanford police department.

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ entire op-ed at the Atlantic.

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