Media Cautious on Tulsa Killings

Journal-isms: News organizations are reluctant to call the Tulsa, Okla., shootings racially motivated.

Reluctance to Label Shootings Racially Motivated

Maybe it’s the Trayvon Martin case, or maybe it’s just the system working as it should, but news organizations are moving cautiously on the story of this weekend’s shootings in Tulsa, Okla., which may — may — have been racially motivated,” Andrew Beaujon reported Monday for the Poynter Institute.

“A headline on says, ‘Two arrested in north Tulsa shootingsJake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 33, are each being held at the Tulsa Jail and are accused of three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill and a single complaint of possession of a firearm while committing a felony. Their bond totals exceeded $18 million, according to the Tulsa World. that claimed three lives.’ . . . The first line of Zack Stoycoff’s story is: ‘Tulsa police have arrested two white men who are accused of killing three black residents and injuring two others in a shooting spree that authorities deemed ‘unprecedented.” ‘

“A few paragraphs down, the story quotes an FBI agent who says, ‘It is way too early to call this a hate crime.’ Indeed, the suspects were charged today, but not with hate crimes.

Cheryl Corley’s report for NPR is headlined ‘ “Premature” To Call Tulsa Shootings Hate Crimes.’ A CNN email alert I saw didn’t mention race until the last line: ‘Authorities are working to determine whether the violence was racially motivated.’

“One fact in this story is repelling a simple narrative: Jake England, one of the two accused shooters, is alternately described as white and Native American. A Los Angeles Times article quotes Susan Sevenstar, a family friend of England’s:

” ‘If anybody is trying to say this is a racial situation, they’ve got things confused,’ said Sevenstar, who described England as Cherokee Indian. ‘He didn’t care what your color was. It wasn’t a racist thing.’

“And yet some posts on England’s Facebook page used racist language.”

* New York Post: CNN anchor apologizes for reporter using n-word during news report