Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Minority Report and Getting Fair Coverage

by Gary Berg-Cross

Early on after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida there was a notable struggle to get facts and reasoning before public. It took nearly a month for Martin's story to catch fire in the mainstream media. Mainstream, national media initially gave the story little coverage, but black media in particular, and to some degree online social media, kept the story alive. Syndicated columnist George Curry makes the point that black media have a history of covering anti-black violence, which mainstream media sometimes picks up on later.

"The black press plays a unique role, because they know right away and can recognize these kinds of stories and the value of them," Curry says.

Two African-American journalists -- Trymaine Lee of The Huffington Post and Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic, who were among the few to cover the story early. This time they weren’t the only ones. Black American TV anchors like CNN's Don Lemon, MSNBC’s Tamaron Hall (and Al Sharpton ) as well as major newspeople like Charles Blow at the New Times and Eugene Robinson and Washington Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart kept the story before the public. With steady coverage there was time to get some reasoned discussion of things like “Stand Your Ground laws” and how they had come to be passed in several states.
It was also an opportunity to make the story personal as Capehart, wrote an "Under Suspicion" opinion piece about the personal tragedy of Trayvon's story, relating it back to his own experiences as an African-American teenager living in Newark, New Jersey. His piece recalled his education about the "don'ts" for an African-American youth - the list of things he shouldn't do, lest he rouse suspicion.

All of this coverage, by the way, aggravated Fox News who had to dreg up a conservative black voice to claim that the focus with its implied message of racial bias, if not hatred was unjustified. I think in contrast that many of the topics discussed were important to hear. In this it reminds me of conversations about other minority’s issues and the increasing coverage they get. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are one such who have spoken in solid support of Trayvon’s family and their quest for justice. Over time the GLBT has been able to get its issues and personal stories before the public.

One can hope that there will be a similar evolution for Atheist et al minorities. This would reflect a growing Secular Humanist media (certainly on the Internet), secular and humanist anchors and prominent newspeople to keep corresponding fairness and justice issues before the Public. The recent coverage of the Reason Rally is a small step with the discussion on UP with Chris Hayes being a good example starting with Chris openly saying that he thinks of himself as an atheist.

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