Racial Gap in Attention to Trayvon Story
Journal-isms: African Americans express far greater interest in news about the Trayvon Martin killing than whites do.
"The growing controversy over the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida was the public's top story last week, though African Americans express far greater interest in news about the killing than do whites," the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported on Tuesday.
"Overall, a quarter of Americans (25%) say they followed news about the
African American teenager killed by a community watch volunteer more closely than any other story. Smaller percentages say they followed news about the presidential elections (16%) or the economy (15%) most closely, according to the latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted March 22-25, 2012, among 1,003 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
"African Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to say that this was their top story (52% vs. 20%). For African Americans, no other story comes close. Whites followed election news about as closely as Martin's death . . ."
The Pew study came as Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera responded to criticism of his remark that the "hoodie" caused Martin's death as much as assailant George Zimmerman; ESPN's ombudsman from the Poynter Institute reproached the network for allowing staffers to post photos of themselves wearing hoodies; and in an appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" former television anchor Joe Oliver, who has defended Zimmerman, acknowledged under grilling by O'Donnell and two black journalists that he hasn't had in-depth conversations with Zimmerman. (See items below.)
And Matt Gutman reported for ABC News, "A police surveillance video taken the night that Trayvon Martin was shot dead shows no blood or bruises on George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who says he shot Martin after he was punched in the nose, knocked down and had his head slammed into the ground."
The Pew study continued, "Looking at a separate measure, 35% of the public says they followed news about the shooting and the still-unfolding controversy very closely. Seven-in-ten blacks say this (70%), compared with 30% of whites.
". . . The gap between black and white attentiveness to news about the Trayvon Martin story follows a pattern seen in other stories involving questions about race and the law dating back more than 20 years. In March 1991, for example, 66% of African Americans said they very closely followed news about the videotaped beating of Rodney King, captured by Los Angeles police after a car chase. About four-in-ten whites (43%) said they followed this news very closely.
"Watch the MSNBC segments below in their full glory," Erik Wemple wrote Wednesday for the Washington Post. "Host Lawrence O'Donnell, Charles Blow of the New York Times and Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post cross-examine Joe Oliver, the ex-reporter/anchor who has spoken repeatedly on behalf of George Zimmerman in media appearances on the Trayvon Martin case. Multiple takeaways:
"1) A rotating panel of experts taking swings at an emerging public figure - in this case, Oliver - makes for gripping television.
"2) An argument about the precise degree of friendship/acquaintanceship that Oliver developed with George Zimmerman can gobble up 25 minutes of air time. Is Oliver an avuncular figure for Zimmerman? An acquaintance? A friend?
"3) Blow has an edgy streak and really, really doesn't appreciate Oliver's contributions to the Trayvon Martin discussion.
". . . 6) This is not just another pointless cable-TV shout-fest. Oliver has placed himself in the news stream to vouch for Zimmerman. Though it's still less than clear why he has done so, there's a public imperative to know how deeply grounded is his familiarity with Zimmerman. As the interrogators in these segments have shown, the answer to that question is: not very."
On his own blog, Capehart wrote, "After an intense grilling for about 30 minutes, Oliver revealed himself to be nothing more than an acquaintance and raised questions about why he inserted himself into this national maelstrom to begin with."
"Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera said Tuesday that he's sorry for suggesting that a hoodie worn by unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was as much responsible for his death as the neighborhood watch captain who shot him," David Bauder reported Tuesday for the Associated Press.
"Rivera said a conversation with his oldest son on Monday convinced him he was wrong. Rivera said it was the first time 32-year-old Gabriel Rivera had said he was ashamed of something his dad had said - and it caused the dad a sleepless night.
". . . Rivera said he was apologizing 'for offending anyone.'
" 'I apologize for the language,' he said. 'I don't apologize at all for the substance of my advice. I was trying to save lives.'
"Rivera said his oldest son was witness to tension between his father and brother, 24-year-old Cruz Rivera, over the young man's clothing. Rivera said he wanted urban parents to realize that clothing their children wear -- such as hooded T-shirts or low-slung pants - could appear menacing to people who don't know them and could put them unnecessarily in danger.
On globalgrind.com, hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons wrote, "Geraldo, your apology is bullshit!"
"Your apology is nothing but a defense of a racist, backward thing you already said. And I am a yogi, and I generally don't speak like this, but I have to say it like it is. It is a non-apology apology that continues to blame the victim for their appearance."
"Rob King, senior vice president of editorial for ESPN digital and print media, was involved in the decision over the weekend to allow an exception to the company's social media policy and allow employees to post the hoodie image on social networks," Kelly McBride wrote Tuesday for the Poynter Review Project Blog at ESPN.com. "There was a robust conversation about the topic among ESPN executives before a decision was made, King told us.
On Friday, spokesman Josh Krulewitz cited the network's social media policies in explaining why ESPN warned staffers who tweet not to post photos of themselves wearing hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old youth killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
But on Sunday, ESPN reversed itself. "It's a tragic situation that has led to much thoughtful discussion throughout the company," Krulewitz said then. "As a result, in this circumstance, we have decided to allow this particular expression of human sympathy."
McBride quoted King: "We asked, 'What are they expressing?' Visually, they are expressing their notions of tolerance around the case. We feel this is a unique expression."
ESPN and the Poynter Institute announced on March 22, 2011, that they would partner for 18 months in the Poynter Review Project, offering independent examination and analysis of ESPN's media outlets.
McBride cited a column by ESPN.com's Jemele Hill and contended that "As a journalism organization, ESPN should do more work like Hill's and less like the self-expression of several others - including ESPN anchors Trey Wingo and Mike Hill, NFL reporter Michael Smith and Grantland writer Jonathan Abrams - who donned hoodies in their Twitter avatars."
Of King's explanation, McBride wrote, "In the abstract, that is certainly true. But in the specific instance of this case, the hoodie is a visual expression of support for the parents of Trayvon and their petition for law enforcement to bring charges against the man who killed their son. King said he believes that most of the ESPN folks using the hoodie image were expressing broader support for the value of tolerance.
"Even if that's the case, there's no way for the audience to know which sentiment was being expressed by the hoodie, or the intent behind it. And we don't know how the facts in this specific story will continue to change."
"Al Sharpton's activism on the Trayvon Martin case has given him a unique role - some would say unique conflict - on MSNBC. The news network host is in the middle of a story he's been featuring every evening on the air," David Bauder reported for the Associated Press.
"Half of Sharpton's 'PoliticsNation' program [video] on MSNBC Monday was about the Feb. 26 shooting of Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Sanford, Fla., leading with an interview with Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. Sharpton's only reference to his own involvement in the case was a remark that 'we did the press conference' earlier in the day.
"The veteran civil rights activist has spoken at rallies in support of Martin. Monday before the Sanford city commission, Sharpton testified that Martin's parents had endured 'insults and lies' over reports that their son attacked George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot him.
"Sharpton's dual role would have been unthinkable on television 20 years ago and still wouldn't be allowed at many news organizations. While opinionated cable news hosts have become commonplace over the past decade, Sharpton goes beyond talking."
* Abena Agyeman-Fisher, NewsOne: Zimmerman's "Black Friend" Exposed As Fraud
* Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Trayvon Martin 'Sideshow' Comes to Cable News
* Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Broadcasters Plan Trayvon Martin Specials
* Bruce Reyes Chow, Hyphen Magazine: Is There Privilege in Being Asian American?
* Corey Dade, NPR: Father Of Trayvon Martin: 'I Won't Rest' Until Son's Killer Is Prosecuted
* Eric Deggans blog, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: In absence of facts, Trayvon Martin case becomes a war of images and reputations online
* Jenée Desmond-Harris, theRoot.com: Beyond Trayvon: Black and Unarmed: These 17 sad stories prove that it's nothing new for a black man without a weapon to be killed.
* Darius Dixon, Politico: Obama aide hits back on Trayvon Martin
* Jake LaMere, Indian Country Today: A Response to Gyasi Ross's Column on Trayvon Martin
* MJ Lee, Politico: Geraldo Rivera apologizes for 'hoodie' comment
* Mike Males, Politico: The violent black youth myth
* Patrick B. Pexton, Washington Post: Post Roast: Ethnic identity and Trayvon Martin's shooter
* Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: In Trayvon Martin case, it's not about the hoodie
* Frances Robles, Miami Herald: Sanford cops wanted to charge Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin case
* Jim Romenesko blog: City of Sanford to media: Don't bother our employees when they're off work
* Gyasi Ross, race-talk.org: THIS IS SOME BULL$#!+: Yes, The Murder of Trayvon Martin is About You
* Clay Routledge, Psychology Today: A Question of Bias?: Most of us pretend not to notice race.
* Alex Seitz-Wald, thinkprogress.org: The Man Defending Zimmerman: Who Is Joe Oliver?
* Louisa Ada Seltzer, medialifemagazine.com: A broader take on Trayvon Martin: NBC's 'Rock Center' revisits the death of the Florida teen
* Andrew J. Skerritt, Florida Voices: What Does a Black Father Say?
* Terrell Jermaine Starr, NewsOne: There Are Trayvon Martins All Over The World
* Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel: Trayvon rumors abound, but here are facts
* Marisa Treviño, Latina Lista: Trayvon Martin's death underscores how race is used for both reason and reaction
* Jackie Vega, KXAN-TV, Austin, Texas: Artist apologizes for Trayvon cartoon
* Washington Post: Trayvon Martin's parents talk with The Post (Video)
Betsy Rothstein, editor of Mediabistro's FishbowlDC media blog, is known for snark and attitude.
On Tuesday, the column posted a photo of Rep. Corrine Brown and asked, "Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) has been in the news more than usual as of late discussing the death of Trayvon Martin. As a result, readers have been wondering about that head of hair - for one thing, is it real, and if not what is it?
"So we're asking you to take our poll."
A reader wrote to Journal-isms, ". . . Did you see the 'poll' in today's column, asking if Rep. Corinne Brown is wearing a wig and offering a series of rude, disrespectful choices if you choose to vote? And did you see a few days ago when she made fun of Rep. Frederica Wilson, whose trademark is that she wears hats? The congresswoman had on a cowboy-girl hat, one of many she owns in that shape. Rothstein took it as another opportunity to ridicule a black woman lawmaker.
"For someone who doesn't seem to see black folks except when there is some negative attached (see Roland Martin's tweets; she wrote about him as if he's a cute little pet), she is mighty bold."
In the FishbowlDC comments section, a person who signed as "kathapollitt," the name of a writer for The Nation magazine (Nation spokesman Gennady Kolker did not respond to a request to verify) wrote, "Why are you making fun of this woman's appearance when she is saying something important about an issue that matters? And a rape joke? What's the matter with you?"
"Jamilah" wrote: "Amazing. Where is Betsy asking this of the white people? Also, what business of it is yours?!"
Journal-isms asked Rothstein to respond.
"FishbowlDC is an equal opportunity mocker. We poke fun at Washington newsmakers of all races, genders, ages and political persuasions," she wrote. "To insinuate that this is racism not only insults the intelligence of your readers but is not based in any fact, thought or reason.
"The cowboy hat post just happened to be about a black person. If Jill Biden went on TV with a hat that silly and an ugly octopus adornment on her blazer there is no doubt we'd write about her, too. On the Roland Martin comments, I'm offended. We take our Roland relationship very seriously. Besides, we're doing it for Dana Perino now. A well-known white lady.
"The only thing you can accurately say is FishbowlDC writes about black people sometimes because they, too, are journalists and members of Congress. If that is the kind of journalism you want to run with, go for it Richard."
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page says a newcomer to Washington's annual Gridiron Club dinner might be forgiven for assuming that only one journalist of color attended what the Washington Post called "the most insidery of media-insider dinners" Saturday night.
The invitation-only, off-the-record event, sometimes attended by politicians, features journalists performing current-events song parodies.
Asked whether the newcomer's perception was true, Page told Journal-isms by email, "Not quite, although my larger-than-life onstage antics may have left that impression.
"I presume you're talking about people on stage, since the audience featured such luminaries-of-color as Gwen Ifill, Frank Whitaker and Valerie Jarrett, to name a few.
"But, with Bill Raspberry," the retired Washington Post columnist, "on sick leave and NPR's Vickie Walton James also sitting it out this year, I was almost the only member of color left onstage.
"BTW, this is not an issue we take lightly. As a member of the membership committee, I have helped our organization (founded in 1885) to cast a wide net for ethnic, racial and gender diversity - after way too many decades as a classic white-male institution.
"Unfortunately, like our industry, we recently have had more success with gender diversity than racial diversity. One problem: With our membership limited to 50 active members at a time, turnover is slow, even in our industry's recent turbulence."
* Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, "The Reliable Source," Washington Post: At elite Gridiron Club dinner, the joke's on Mitt Romney
* Betsy Rothstein, FishbowlDC: C-SPAN Goes After Gridiron's No-Camera Rule Again
* Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times: The scoop from Washington Gridiron Club Dinner: Zingers from Leon Panetta, Rick Perry, Wasserman Schultz
* "A group of local investors reportedly has offered to pay $60 million to acquire the parent company of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com," Mike Armstrong reported Wednesday for the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Those investors, led by businessman Lewis Katz and insurance executive and New Jersey Democratic leader George E. Norcross III, are seeking to buy Philadelphia Media Network Inc. from a collection of hedge funds and financial investors that has owned the media company since October 2010."
* Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has accepted an invitation to speak at the American Society of News Editors/Newspaper Association of America lunch on Wednesday, April 4, during the ASNE convention in Washington, ASNE announced on Wednesday. Romney is to speak from the same stage that President Obama will use to address ASNE and NAA attendees 24 hours earlier, at the Associated Press Annual Luncheon.
* The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) has chosen New York as the site for the 1,400-member organization's 2013 national convention, AAJA announced on Tuesday. Convention co-chairs are Brooke Camp, senior recruiter for CNN and truTV, and Michelle Yu, an anchor for SNY (SportsNet New York). AAJA-New York was responsible for a national convention in New York's Times Square in 2000.
* Chicago "Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he doesn't 'believe in handcuffing reporters' and won't let it happen to any of the 2,500-strong media contingent expected to descend on Chicago for the May 21-21 NATO summit," Fran Spielman reported for the Chicago Sun-Times. On March 17, ". . . WGN-TV Channel 9 reporter Dan Ponce and Donte Williams, a cameraman from WMAQ-TV Channel 5, were handcuffed while attempting to report on the murder of Aliyah Shell. She's the six-year-old girl who was gunned down in broad daylight in front of her parents as she played on the front porch of the family's home in Little Village."
* Executive Producer Stephanie Jackson and two other news managers ended their employment with KARK-TV in Little Rock, Ark., on March 2, Arkansas Business reported on March 26.
* "Today, I (Charlotte-based writer/editor Carlton Hargro) launched a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to raise funds to publish a comic book titled 'The African American Superhero Anthology," Hargro wrote to friends on Wednesday. Hargro spent four years as editor of the Charlotte, N.C., edition of the alternative newspaper Creative Loafing. "As the title suggests, this comic is designed to inject a number of new African American characters into the world of comics - which as we know, isn't exactly great at presenting characters of color. Ultimately, we hope to follow in the footsteps of creators like Orrin Cromwell Evans ('[All-Negro] Comics'); Jackie Ormes ('Torchy'); Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; Tom Floyd ('Blackman'); Dawud Anyabwile and Guy A. Sims ('Brotherman'); the legendary Dwayne McDuffie; and many more. . . . For all the details about me or the project, visit: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1482060906/super-black-the-african-a... "
* "Photojournalist Rodney Ferguson was 50-years-old and had worked at WJBK Channel 2 since 1989. He died suddenly from complications of sickle cell anemia on Sunday morning," Amy Lange wrote Monday for WJBK-TV in Detroit. Ryan Ermanni of WJBK wrote in an appreciation, "Hot Rod was one of the guys we worked with the most in the sports department. He loved shooting sports and we loved getting him assigned to us. You knew if you were working with Rodney on a particular day, it was gonna be a good one."
* "Advertisers and some radio stations may have abandoned Rush Limbaugh for calling a Georgetown law student a 'slut.' But the CEO of the radio company that distributes Limbaugh's show, Clear Channel, says he's sticking with the conservative talk show host, calling him the 'king' of radio," Politico reported. "Bob Pittman told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that the outrage over Limbaugh's comments last month was 'part of the normal day-to-day of talk radio.' He also noted that Limbaugh apologized for the first time in 30 years."
* "Nestled in the inspirational scenery of the Bellagio Conference Center on Lake Como in Italy, more than 30 journalists from six continents crafted and launched last week the world's first global association of journalists who cover religion and spirituality," Patrick Butler reported Monday for the International Center for Journalists. "The journalists collaborated to write a mission statement for the International Association of Religion Journalists, outline bylaws and membership requirements, strategize on educational programs and a fundraising strategy, plan web resources and online partnerships, and elect leaders."
* "A federal bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of Asian-language independent KSCI Los Angeles to NRJ TV, the station announced late yesterday," TVNewsCheck reported on Tuesday. "Judge Mary F. Walrath of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved the deal on March 23, but it is still subject to FCC approval."
* "Peter Thorne was a ten-year veteran of WPIX/Channel 11 before leaving in December," Jerry Barmash reported Tuesday for FishbowlNY. "John Liu is the embattled New York City Comptroller who's been locked in a fundraising scandal. The two minds are now uniting, as Liu, the hopeful mayoral candidate in 2013, has hired Thorne as his new communications director."
* "The opening scenes of the Season 5 premiere of 'Mad Men,' set in 1966, depicted a sort of knucklehead-racism at work, when young men from the advertising agency Young & Rubicam dropped bags filled with water on protesters picketing on the Madison Avenue sidewalk below," Michael Wilson reported Wednesday for the New York Times. "Wet and angry, several protesters came upstairs to demand to know who at the firm had dropped the water bombs. . . . Some critics found the scene, broadcast on Sunday, a bit too on-the-nose . . . Everything in the scene really happened, written almost verbatim from an article on Page 1 of The Times on May 28, 1966."
* "David Maus is one of Central Florida's most familiar figures for his many car commercials with the catchphrase 'whatever it takes,' Hal Boedeker reported Saturday for the Orlando Sentinel. "Maus has decided to do whatever it takes to help Mark McEwen, the former WKMG-Channel 6 anchor who suffered a massive stroke in 2005. Maus is sharing his life story through a McEwen interview in a proposed series called 'McEwen's Mark.' "
* "Two Brazilian journalists working near the Paraguayan border were killed over the weekend, less than a week after the International Press Institute (IPI) released a special report warning of increased violence against the media in Brazil's frontier regions," Scott Griffen and Mariela Hoyer Guerrero wrote Tuesday for the institute. "The deaths of newspaper owner Onei de Moura and radio reporter Divino Aparecido Carvalho, both in Paraná state, add to an already grim picture of journalist safety in Brazil, which, according to IPI's Death Watch, now trails only conflict-riven Syria in terms of journalist killings in 2012."
* "There are strong grounds for suspecting that the privately-owned Grenada Advocate weekly's dismissal of reporter Rawle Titus on 23 March was the result of direct political pressure by Prime Minister Tillman Thomas . . . and his press secretary. Reporters Without Borders calls on the government to provide a frank explanation of a matter liable to endanger media independence," the press freedom organization said on Tuesday.
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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (www.mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.