Above Image: Mainstream ABC Evening News prominently displays mug shots of four black teenagers arrested for shooting dozens of other teens at an after-prom party for high school students near Houston, Texas.
This is extremely rare for several reasons. Violent crimes where perpetrators are black are usually reported only as local news, by local newspapers and TV stations. They are rarely reported as national stories by national news networks. In the rare cases they are reported, the race of the perpetrators are rarely reported in the headlines, and their photos are rarely displayed. However, race is almost always in the headlines, and photos are almost always displayed for the very rare cases where the “victim” is black and those accused are white or police officers.
Above Image: National Media Coverage of Ahmaud Arbery Case: In January of 2020, residents had good reason to be afraid of criminals wandering around their suburban neighborhood to commit burglaries. When three orf them tried to ask one young man with a criminal record why he was wandering around a nearby house under construction, the young man ran. Then he later attacked one of the men. That confrontation left the young man dead. Months later, the media treated this as a national story. It identified the race of the neighbors and victim in every headline. It used mugshots of the neighbors, but only an old school photo of the victim.
However, in the very rare cases where the criminals or shooters are white or police officers, and the victims are black, the stories are almost always reported as national news. In those stories, the races of the shooters and victims are almost always in the headlines, and the photos of both are usually displayed side by side. Where the victims are black, the photos used are old photos from school graduations. Or from singing in their church choir. Or other special occasions where the victims are depicted as being friendly and well-groomed.
By doing this, the mainstream media distorts reality. This selective treatment of crime stories gives many covers up the fact that many young black men have embraced a culture of violence that makes them a threat to all Americans. It gives the false impression that whites who have good reason to be afraid of these criminals are racists. It gives the false impression that local police use excessive force when trying to protect the public and themselves from these young black criminals.
Yesterday’s coverage by ABC TV of the Texas after-prom shootings was a rare moment of journalistic truth by a mainstream media TV network. Was this an accident? Was it a breach of network policy? Will the producers and reporters be reprimanded for it? Or does this show a change in how mainstream media will report crime stories in the future?
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