MSNBC Seizes on News of Zimmerman Arrest

MSNBC via Huffington Post
MSNBC via Huffington Post

Sharpton Appears With Martin Team, Then Interviews Them

MSNBC, the cable news network that claims the highest ratings among African Americans, accorded the announcement of George Zimmerman's arrest in the Trayvon Martin killing the greatest amount of coverage on Wednesday. That coverage included a news conference hosted by its "PoliticsNation" host, the Rev. Al Sharpton.


While Sharpton was conducting his Washington news conference with the Martin family and their lawyers, Martin Bashir hosted Sharpton's show. After the news conference, Sharpton conducted an "exclusive" interview with the family for MSNBC.

CNN carried a portion of the news conference, but Fox News Channel, which has given the Martin case less coverage than MSNBC or CNN, broadcast "Special Report With Bret Baier" with an all-white "all-star panel" that contrasted sharply with the eight African Americans filling the screen for the Sharpton news conference. A Fox News spokeswoman said Fox carried special prosecutor Angela Corey's news conference live.

The charge filed against Zimmerman was the lead story on the three evening newscasts on the broadcast networks.

Commentators praised Corey after her 6 p.m. news conference. "Corey announced a second-degree murder charge at the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville tonight, more than six weeks after Trayvon and Zimmerman's fatal encounter," Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner wrote for the Orlando Sentinel. "If convicted, Zimmerman would face up to life in prison on the first-degree felony charge. He arrived at the Seminole County jail about 8:30 p.m. tonight."

It was a moment that commentators and Martin family supporters said they had waited for. When word leaked earlier Wednesday that Corey would announce a decision to prosecute, blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic wrote of Zimmerman, "What I know is that I care much more about him being charged [than] I do about him being convicted. What always rankled about this case wasn't that Zimmerman might not see a jail cell (that's what judges and juries determine) but that law enforcement had done everything to foreclose that possibility. We may find that they still have. I imagine a lot was lost in bungling. But at the very least this says, 'We take the loss of life seriously.' "

Corey did not address media coverage in her remarks but she did comment on the numerous leaks. "So much information got released in this case that should not have been released," she said. ". . . There has been an overwhelming amount of publicity in this case that we hope will not prevent us from finding an impartial jury."


Sharpton's dual role as talk show host and activist has been criticized by commentators as a conflict of interest. In an interview with Reuters this week, NBC News President Steve Capus defended the arrangement.

"Reverend Sharpton is a talk show host on MSNBC," Capus said. "We believe there's a distinction between the role he plays and our front line journalists who are part of NBC's news gathering and reporting. This is a large news organization that has many people involved in any number of different aspects of coverage and commentary. That's the distinction we've made as a news organization."


Sharpton won praise Monday from an unexpected quarter. The contrarian columnist Stanley Crouch wrote in the Daily News in New York, "Sharpton has often been among those loons, accused of opportunism, selling out black journalists to get his own MSNBC show and of being a police informant. I have thrown many of my own tomatoes at him."

But Sharpton's conduct in the Martin case and commitment to nonviolence, Crouch wrote, put him in a different light. "He has become one of the public prizes in our era, so dominated by the special effects of lies spoken only for attention, money and power."


MSNBC has boasted that it is "No. 1 in cable news with African-American and Hispanic viewers," which makes its coverage of the Martin case — the Sharpton-family news conference was followed by further discussion on its talk shows — consistent with efforts to appeal to black viewers.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported Tuesday, "African Americans continue to follow news about the controversy more closely than whites. About seven-in-ten blacks (72%) say they followed Trayvon Martin developments more closely than any other story, compared with 26% of whites."


In addition, "Eight in 10 blacks say they think Martin's killing was not justified, compared with 38 percent of whites," Krissah Thompson and Jon Cohen reported Tuesday for the Washington Post, discussing a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. "Most whites say they do not know enough about the shooting to say whether it was justified."

Moreover, according to a Newsweek poll, "blacks are twice as likely as whites (82 percent versus 38 percent) to say that race played a role in the shooting of Trayvon Martin," Andrew Romano and Allison Samuels reported Monday for the Daily Beast. "They are simply more likely than whites to still see race as a factor in how people are treated, period."

* Hal Boedecker, Orlando Sentinel: George Zimmerman: Former WKMG analyst Mark O'Mara is his new lawyer

* David Boroff, Daily News, New York: Fox affiliate in Florida portrays Neo-Nazis as 'civil rights group' trying to protect white citizens following Trayvon Martin shooting

* Daily Beast: Walter Mosley on Trayvon Martin Case and Racial Identity

* Alan Dershowitz, Daily News, New York: The damage done by George Zimmerman's lawyers

* LZ Granderson, Violence and race: a two-way street

* Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: Imprisoned by their fears

* Jason Johnson, Eight Things White Parents Should Teach About Black People

* Celeste Katz, Daily News, New York: Mayor Bloomberg: End "Stand Your Ground" Laws

* Wesley Lowery and Aaron Morrison, George Zimmerman's Lawyers Confirm Loop 21 Exclusive

* Media Matters for America: George Zimmerman's Legal Team Cites Zimmerman's Phone Call To Sean Hannity As They Withdraw From The Case

* Darryl E. Owens, Orlando Sentinel: Trayvon Martin case: Blacks still outraged by black-on-black crime

* Walter Pacheco, Martin E. Comas and David Breen, Orlando Sentinel: George Zimmerman's arrest brings relief to community

* Chez Pazienza blog: Gone but Not Forgotten (on NBC News editing error)

* Richard Prince and Earnest Perry with Kerri Miller on "The Daily Circuit," Minnesota Public Radio: Evaluating Trayvon Martin media coverage

* Elena Shore, New America Media: Zimmerman Case Ignites Dialogue on Latino Racial Identity

* Mallary Jean Tenore, Poynter Institute: The 10 things to do before Zimmerman charges are announced

* Paul Theroux, Daily Beast: If I Had a Son, He'd Look Like George Zimmerman

* Rod Watson, Buffalo News: Craving hope despite double consciousness

* DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: Black-on-black violence: Where's the outrage?

* Edward Wyckoff Williams, Don't White People Kill Each Other, Too?


Student's Announcement Gets Him Fired Before He Starts

"Khristopher Brooks called shortly before 6 p.m. ET to tell me that the News Journal fired him this afternoon for improper use of the newspaper's logo on his personal sites, and for using executive editor David Ledford's hiring-letter quotes in his press release, which is posted below," Jim Romenesko reported Wednesday on his media blog.


His note referencing the Wilmington, Del., newspaper topped this item:

" 'I'm a really big NBA fan,' journalist Khristopher J. Brooks tells me, 'and whenever an NBA team acquires a new player there's always a press release announcing it. I'd look at those releases and think, "The organization is really proud' of the new hire. Brooks notes that newspapers don't announce new employees unless they're stars, but 'what's keeping me from doing it?' (Nothing!)"


Brooks said, "I didn't do it to showboat. I did it to tell family, friends and ex-co-workers about the next step in my career."

NPR Ombudsman Upbeat on Network's Diversity

NPR has been criticized over the years for its lack of racial diversity in programming, staffing and audience, but NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos crunched the diversity numbers at the radio network and concluded that "racially and ethnically, NPR is not doing badly, and is getting better.


"Looking at NPR, the overwhelming majority of its radio audience is in fact

(Source: NPR's Human Resources Department; credit: Stephanie d'Otreppe/NPR)
This image was lost some time after publication.

white — roughly 87 percent, according to research pulled together for me by Lori Kaplan of NPR's Audience, Insight and Research Department," Schumacher-Matos wrote on Wednesday. "This is substantially higher than the 77 percent of adult Americans (18 and older) who are white. Asian-Americans make up nearly 4 percent of the audience, but roughly 3 percent of the adult population. African-Americans and Latinos, however, are under-represented among NPR's listeners. Blacks make up nearly 12 percent of the adult population but just a little more than 5 percent of NPR listeners. For Hispanics, the numbers are 14 percent versus 6 percent."

However, Schumacher-Matos wrote, "Using the total adult population is the wrong baseline. NPR appeals overwhelmingly to college-educated Americans." Under that measure, "Among all income levels, more than 11 percent of whites with a college degree listen to NPR. This compares to 9 percent of Asians with a college degree, nearly 7 percent of Hispanics and 6 percent of blacks."


As for NPR staffing, "Seven percent of U.S. college graduates are African American. Blacks make up 12 percent of the newsroom - much more than their 7 percent weight among college graduates. Hispanics, however, are slightly under-represented. They make up six percent of the Americans with college degrees but five percent of the newsroom. Asians do exactly the reverse. They are five percent of Americans with degrees and six percent of the newsroom. The Native American sample size is too small to draw many conclusions. There is one person among NPR's journalists and managers who said he or she was Native American, according to Human Resources. This is 0.2 percent of the newsroom, compared to the 0.6 percent of college graduates who are Native American."

He concluded, "The bottom line here is that in terms of the nation's largest racial and ethnic minority groups — blacks, Latinos and Asians-NPR staffing may have arrived."


Santorum Pullout Forces Media to Reverse Course

"When Tuesday broke, it looked like Rick Santorum's Easter and family campaign recess was about to end," Ken Knelly wrote for Columbia Journalism Review. "Events were scheduled. The Underdog Machine was seemingly about to rev up.


"What broke instead was news that Santorum's presidential campaign was over. The announcement would come from the same small town where another campaign ended in 1863 — Gettysburg, Pa.

"Media outlets here were quick to reverse course, with Twitter updates, email alerts, and breaking news bars posted and sent out. Some were also quick to forget the story, including many large-market television websites — stations set to lose a good chunk of the $2.9 million the Mitt Romney campaign was reportedly set to plunk down in the state."


Correspondents' Readiness for War Zones Questioned

Sebastian Junger, a war correspondent, author and lecturer, is sponsoring a three-day course in New York next week that covers basic procedures for saving someone's life on the battlefield.


It comes after other correspondents have pleaded for increased attention by news organizations to the health of their correspondents. That includes their readiness for the assignment, as with the New York Times' Anthony Shadid

Anthony Shadid
This image was lost some time after publication.

, who died in February, as well as first-aid training.

Junger and others say they have witnessed needless deaths of other journalists. In Junger's case, it was Tim Hetherington, hit by shrapnel in the groin in Libya. "Tim is not the first friend I have lost in combat, but his death was certainly the most devastating. It has prompted me to start a medical training program for freelancer journalists so that the next tragedy can be averted," Junger wrote on his website.


At the American Society of News Editors convention in Washington last week, New York Times correspondent C.J. Chivers added at a panel, "You'd be astonished at the number of people who don't have any training. They need to be able to stop the bleeding, treat for shock and do basic triage." He recalled a friend dying with journalists at his side "providing comfort but not first aid."

Shadid's cousin Ed Shadid raised a broader issue at memorial services in March.

Shadid died after an asthma attack in Syria, not long after he had been reporting in Libya, where he and three other New York Times journalists were captured and released. "I just feel that competition played a role in his demise," Shadid said at a March 15 memorial service at the Washington Post, where his brother worked before moving to the Times.


"I can't imagine there isn't some degree of PTSD," post-traumatic stress disorder, Ed Shadid said. He urged that news organizations try to learn from the experience "and figure out how we can protect journalists and what we might do differently. I wish that the adults in the room made these journalists get physical exams and figure out if they are fit to take on" these assignments. . . I wish that addressing PTSD was mandatory, like it is in the military."

Ed Shadid made similar comments at a March 3 memorial service in Oklahoma City, Katie Fretland reported then for the Associated Press.


"Susan Chira, an assistant managing editor at the Times, said Saturday the safety of journalists has long been a focus of the newspaper, especially in the past decade," Fretland wrote.

" 'Everyone at The New York Times is thinking about anything we can do to help our journalists do their work safely,' Chira said. 'There is always more to be done.'


"David Hoffman, Shadid's former editor at The Washington Post, said he tells reporters their first responsibility is to themselves and to be available for tomorrow's story. The newspaper where Shadid won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 and 2010 has devoted attention and resources to helping journalists deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome in the past 10 years, he said.

" 'We've already invested a lot of time and attention to reporters' safety,' Hoffman said. 'This requires us to double and triple our efforts.' "


2nd National Review Contributor Ousted Over Racism

"For the second time this week, the National Review has severed its ties with a contributor because of racism," Dylan Byers reported Wednesday for Politico.


"Over the weekend, it was John Derbyshire. Today, it's University of Illinois professor emeritus Robert Weissberg.

" 'Unbeknowst to us, occasional Phi Beta Cons contributor Robert Weissberg (whose book was published a few years ago by Transaction) participated in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism,' editor Rich Lowry wrote in a post on the National Review's website. "He will no longer be posting here. Thanks to those who brought it to our attention."


"Weissberg spoke at the conference about 'viable alternatives' to white nationalism, including the creation of 'Whitopias,' according to the American Renaissance website."

Pope's Visit to Cuba, Mexico Barely Registered in U.S.

". . . Each time my family of expatriates from the United States turned on the local Mexican news, we saw heavy coverage of each move the Pope made in Guanajuato, Guanajuato or Leon, Guanajuato, in Central Mexico," Dr. Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie wrote from Mexico last week for LatinaLista. "We saw the weeks of preparation beforehand. Many people left for other locations, because of the estimates of 3 million expected visitors into our narrow colonial town. The excitement was evident all over Central Mexico and all over the local television channels, but little from the USA.


"On Sunday, March 25th there were about 700,000 people gathered in Leon to hear the Pope give his blessing to them all during mass. Viewing the enormous crowd was breathtaking and so was the snub on USA television."

As the trip began, Univision announced that it "will offer Hispanic America the most comprehensive coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Mexico and Cuba, featuring in-depth reports and updates across all its programs."


But the weekly News Interest Index survey of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted March 29-April 1 among 1,000 adults, found "The pope's travels were the top story for 1% of the public, and 5% followed his visits to Mexico and Cuba very closely. Just 1% of the newshole was devoted to this story."

* Myriam Marquez, Miami Herald: Church's good works, Cuban cardinal's bad calls (March 24)

* Albor Ruiz, Daily News, New York: Pope will find a Cuba transformed (March 25)


Short Takes

* The editorial cartoon above, by Marty Two Bulls of the Indian Country Today Media Network, won a Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in the editorial cartooning category (newspaper circulation 1-100,000, regional magazine, non-daily publication or online independent). Other winners included Robert Zavala of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate; Sanjay Bhatt of the Seattle Times; Ray Chavez of the Bay Area News Group; Ryan Vasquez of Alabama Public Radio; Michelle Quesada and Tyler Southard, WGXA-TV, Macon, Ga.; Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN; and David L. Paredes of KPHO-TV in Phoenix. In addition, Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters of NPR won investigative reporting honors for "Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families." List of winners.


* Brian Farnham resigned after four years as editor-in-chief of Patch, the hyperlocal websites owned by AOL. ". . . I'm heading off to explore some other startup opportunities. But not before I take a good, long nap," he wrote.

* " 'View' co-host Whoopi Goldberg and CNN anchor Don Lemon argued for journalists to say the full n-word on air while reporting stories," HuffPost BlackVoices reported Tuesday. ". . . Lemon said, 'I hate saying "the n-word." I think it takes the value out of what that word really means. Especially when we're reporting it. And I don't care what color the reporter is. I think someone should say, that person called someone 'nigger,' instead of saying 'the n-word,' because I think it sanitizes it."

* Roy Hobbs, a weekend television anchor in Birmingham, Ala., when he was busted on drug charges in April 2010, wrote about his recovery from addiction for the Radio-Television Digital News Association. He said he hoped ". . . that as a result of my sharing, people in recovery, especially those in NEWS, will be seen differently, no longer defined as difficult people or addicts but instead as people who have taken responsibility for their past and their disease and who only desire to play a healthy, active, contributing role in society."

* Allissa Richardson, an assistant professor of communication studies and coordinator of the journalism program at Morgan State University, was named Journalism Educator of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, NABJ announced on Wednesday. ". . . Most recently, the Knight Foundation's Institute for Interactive Journalism awarded her a $25,000 grant to create a cutting-edge mobile journalism (MOJO) lab at the university," NABJ said.

* ABC correspondent Pierre Thomas, Journalist of the Year for the National Association of Black Journalists, said having compassion and empathy for the people he covers is important to him, Chelsea Boone wrote Tuesday for American Journalism Review. "Having a reputation of being aggressive but fair, and a person who has integrity, is what I want to be known as."

* "ESPN announces Wednesday that Monday Night Football will bring back something it didn't bother with last year: Sideline reporting," Michael Hiestand wrote Tuesday for USA Today. "Lisa Salters, an ESPN/ABC sideline reporter on NBA who also worked college football, now adds MNF."

* Enrique Acevedo has joined Univision and will co-anchor the national late evening news program "Noticiero Univision Edición Nocturna" alongside Ilia Calderón starting April 23, Univision announced on Wednesday ".. . . Acevedo has reported on key news stories all over the world, including the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the humanitarian crisis in Haiti and the drug wars in Mexico. He joins Univision from NBC-Telemundo, where he served as special correspondent and anchor."

* Matt Lauer, discussing his professional partnership with Ann Curry on NBC's "Today" show, told the Hollywood Reporter that the relationship "is still a transition. I think the chemistry is good. People have to get used to the fact that it's not what it was eight months ago [or] eight years ago. Every team is different. And people need to give us a chance to be different."

* "Shutting down the Village Voice's adult classifieds site could force some current users into poverty or onto the street, says a former sex worker who previously advertised online," Melissa Petro wrote Tuesday for the Daily Beast. She quoted "Maria, a 48-year-old hairdresser and artist who supplements her income selling sexual services to clients that she meets online," about

* "In an effort to continue the national conversation sparked with its 'Education Nation' initiative, NBC News is continuing 'Education Nation On-The-Road' for the spring of 2012," NBC has announced. "Making its first stop in Denver beginning April 12th, the NBC News team will spend a week in the city, partnering with its affiliate station, 9NEWS, and its sister networks, MSNBC and Telemundo affiliate KDEN, to create a public dialogue around education issues faced by the region." Participants include NBC correspondents Rehema Ellis and Andrea Mitchell.

* "Youkyung Lee, a reporter who has covered technology, business and politics in South Korea and for overseas publications, has been named technology writer in Seoul for The Associated Press," TalkingBizNews reported. "Stephen Wright, the AP's Asia business editor, made the announcement Wednesday."

* "Uganda's State Minister for Regional Cooperation, Asuman Kiyingi, has lashed out at the international media and humanitarian organisations that misreported facts about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi," Gashegu Muramira reported for New Times in Rwanda. " . . . 'I wish to state that the Genocide plan was known especially to those whose troops were deployed in Rwanda for the futile peacekeeping mission,' the Minister stressed. He added, 'It was known by the international media, the humanitarian NGOs, but for some time, they continued to describe the Genocide as a civil war between polarised ethnic groups.' "

* "Nieman Reports is compiling a list of important mistakes in journalism history - a timeline of instances where the press got the story wrong; how the error occurred and what the impact may have been," according to the Nieman Watchdog website. "Can you help? Journalism is said to be the first rough draft of history, and rough it sometimes is. A Union victory at Bull Run, the end of World War I being four days early, and Dewey defeating Truman are some famous examples of media getting the story wrong. Do you remember others?"

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.