Did Rodney King’s Beating Lead to Riot?

Journal-isms: In the coverage of his death, the press misses the scope of the anger unleashed in 1992.

Shorthand Misses Scope of Anger Unleashed in ’92

“I saw my page 1 proof tonight with the [AP’s] Rodney King hed on it,” Robin Washington, editor of the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, messaged Journal-isms on Sunday.

“Rodney King, whose beating led to LA Riots, dies

” … and changed it to:

“Rodney King, whose beating sparked national outrage, dies

“Be interesting to see how many news outlets ran the AP version uncritically, and to know the thinking of whoever wrote it. Yes, it’s true, but only indirectly — like saying ‘Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination led to the Holocaust.’ “

Washington has a point. King was beaten on March 3, 1991, sparking national outrage. But the riots didn’t come until three L.A. police officers were acquitted on April 29, 1992. It was not just the beatings that led to the riots, but the additional insult of a criminal justice system that seemed to turned a blind eye to the obvious. An angry Mayor Tom Bradley publicly declared, “Today, the jury told the world that what we all saw with our own eyes was not a crime.”

Asked for comment, AP spokesman Paul D. Colford said, “I noticed that many papers did go with AP’s headline: http://bit.ly/M7D5df

“But as with all AP headlines, they may be changed by the AP member newspapers and other AP customers.”