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The Trayvon Martin case: Was it news?

By DOUG THOMPSON - Capitol Hill Blue
July 15, 2013

George Zimmerman sits in Seminole circuit court during his trial in Sanford, Fla. Wednesday, July 10, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Gary W. Green, Pool)

George Zimmerman (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Gary W. Green, Pool)

A friend, who is also my minister and the chief investigator for our local sheriff’s department, posted on Facebook that the media will drive America into another civil war.

His post:

I am firmly convinced to next civil war will be started as the result of main stream media…..just my opinion.

Normally, I avoid debates on Facebook but I couldn’t let it pass.

My response:

Wow. Didn’t know I was part of a terrorism organization. In a half-century of media work (both mainstream and independent) I’ve seen a lot of predictions that the downfall of civilization would be the fault of the media. Not one of those predictions have come true. Yes, America has large problems to overcome but are we in the media the cause of them or simply the ones with the unpleasant task of reporting them? And what is considered “mainstream” media? Just my opinion. :)

Some people claim the media created the Trayvon Martin controversy but was it the media or a series of unfortunate events that could have been prevented?

Those who claim the media devoted too much attention to the case motivated us to scan the various forums and discussion boards on the Internet and that scan showed a lot of interest and debate on the case.  Even the discussion board here on Capitol Hill Blue see more comment on that case than on issues that are more important and  political in nature and this is a political news web site.

So I post the question again.  Are the problems that face America created by the media or are we blamed simply because it is our often uncomfortable job of bringing these problems to the public’s attention?

Much of the focus of media coverage on the charges against and trial of George Zimmerman have focused on Florida laws and neighborhood practices that put him on the street that night with a gun in a situation that led to the death of a teenager who may or may not have been a threat to him.

In raising questions about the law and local attitudes, the media is doing its job.  Did those who chose to broadcast the trial live go too far?  Local authorities allowed the trial to be telecast and those who chose to watch saw the trial in action and were not limited to just a reporter’s interpretation of what happened in the courtroom.

Questions over what is or is not news are what those of us in this business face every day.  We scan hundreds of story daily to pick the half dozen or so that are featured on this web site.  Our writers look for angles not covered by regular media in producing stories that are exclusive to Capitol Hill Blue.

An example is today’s story on President Barack Obama calling the death of Trayvon Martin.  We looked at the President’s statement and saw it as him taking political advantage of the situation and using it to promote his anti-gun agenda, so that’s what our story said.

Up until the President got involved in the case, we didn’t see the Trayvon Martin shooting or the George Zimmerman trial as news for a political web site.  Now it is.

A judgment call but we have to make such calls day in and day out in this business.

That’s what we do.  Some people like, some don’t.

As legendary television anchor Walter Cronkite used to say, “that’s the way it is.”

 

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24 Responses to The Trayvon Martin case: Was it news?

  1. Bill Cravener

    July 15, 2013 at 8:37 am

    How anyone one can blame this tragedy on the media is beyond me Doug. I posted my thoughts about this sad event on another article here on your site. I’ll simply say this, it is most certainly difficult to be a black youth in America.

  2. beachshoe

    July 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Doug, the only problem I see in the medias reporting on the Zimmerman/Martin case was that whenever they had something new to report in the printed media they seem to think they need to rehash everything that has gone before. And I view it as nothing more than filler, all be it useless filler.

  3. Jim Grandone

    July 15, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Recall that the Stanford law enforcement officials and the state’s attorney did not want to pursue the Trayvon Martin incident as a murder. Only after activists organized and approached local television news media about it, did it get traction. Then local TV went regional and regional TV went national and national TV(in part due to the summer lull in hard news) went obsessive.
    No, it was not news. Hundreds of these kinds of killings happen every year. It was controversial because it had racial overtones and exposed a bad law in Florida and other states. What was the takeaway? America has not gotten over its racial fears and stereotypes. Have the laws changed? No. Has America become even further polarized? Yes.
    I have been on Facebook reading some of the most hateful content I can recall over the past two days. I did not know such hateful racists existed in modern society.
    Is the media just reporting the news? No. They are making the news. What was the story in the media after the verdict acquitting Zimmerman? Reaction focusing on race. Race. Not even part of the trial. The lyrics from Don Henly’s song “Dirty Laundry” leaps to mind:

    I make my living off the evening news
    Just give me something-something I can use
    People love it when you lose,
    They love dirty laundry

    Well, I coulda been an actor, but I wound up here
    I just have to look good, I don’t have to be clear
    Come and whisper in my ear
    Give us dirty laundry

    We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blond who
    Comes on at five
    She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam
    In her eye
    It’s interesting when people die
    Give us dirty laundry

    Can we film the operation?
    Is the head dead yet?
    You know, the boys in the newsroom got a
    Running bet
    Get the widow on the set!
    We need dirty laundry

    You don’t really need to find out what’s going on
    You don’t really want to know just how far it’s gone
    Just leave well enough alone
    Eat your dirty laundry

    (Edited and trimmed to comply with copyright laws)

    • Doug Thompson

      July 15, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Jim, we had to trim your post to comply with copyright laws that prohibit the use of more than 100 words from a copyrighted piece. Your comment was up less than 15 minutes when we got an email from Don Henley and the Eagles lawyers.

      • Hal Brown

        July 15, 2013 at 11:05 am

        Totally off subject but for old times sake I want to share this with you and my old friends on CHB. I wanted to share what I read the other day on Slate about big name bands performing at private parties because it relates to your brush with the Eagle’s legal eagles (ugh, did I just write that?).

        “A private concert by the Eagles, for instance, costs $6 million; you can get the Rolling Stones for two-thirds of the price.”

        Celebrities for Hire”

        On subject
        Your friend and minister is just naive. He may not appreciate that in modern day America the First Amendment is more important and relevant than the Second. I wonder if he believes America is likely to actually have another civil war.

        Truth, as I see it, is that the fringe right wing media, is responsible for encouraging such beliefs. I won’t even get into the bothersome subject of how conspiracy websites flame the paranoia of the wing-nuts.

        • Jon

          July 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm

          Eagles’s.

          Further off topic, yes, there will be a civil(?!) war, but it’ll be over the separation of church and state (it’s happening all over the world right now. The USA will not be immune).

          A minister is the chief investigator of the police force? Hmmm…

          J.

  4. Sandy Price

    July 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

    I have been depressed by the racism that has shown up across the USA. I had a Civics teacher in highschool who explained that the human species would be very wise to cross breed with all colors just to show how dangerous it has become to try to prove superiority.

    I mingled with the world of science and literature professionals and they were made up of all colors shapes and sizes.

    My Mother’s family tried to keep the blood line free from color. We are all beach bums and golfers and we are all different colors. I put no restrictions on my kids.

  5. Carl Nemo **==

    July 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I do believe the MSM has whipped up this case beyond reasonable proportions.

    Mr. Thompson birthed his news gathering skills during a more honorable era and so too carries them forward to present. The modern era genre’ of the craft are simply stirring the pot in order to sell copy so to speak. Hell, we even have cable channels dedicated to full time coverage of court proceedings. I come from an age where sketches, photo’s or any such depiction of court room proceedings were not allowed. Cameras in the courtroom…no way! Now anything and everything goes. Nothing is sacred and it’s reflected in our rough edged society, now seemingly on the skids.

    We are supposed to live in a nation of laws and to live within such: “the jury has spoken”…but seemingly the rabble do not understand such.

    What stunned me the most is there were nationwide demonstrations concerning this case, but these same ‘good’ citizens surely haven’t demonstrated nationwide concerning the recent disclosures of their government surveilling them in an unconstituional fashion. Their priorities are all screwed up…no?! /:|

    Seemingly America has become a ‘garbage nation’ with an ill-informed, easily manipulated populace of the same caliber; I.E., ‘garbage citizens’.

    I know this much. If I were being held on the ground by a violent teen or anyone who proceeded to use the blunt force trauma of the pavement to turn my skull into mush and all I had was either my concealed carry handgun or even my trusty tanto folder to end the confrontation, I would do so, public sentiment be damned, so too the court system.

    President Obama is out of line even commenting on this case. To politicize this case is below the office, but evidently not to our ‘silver-tongued’ prevaricator in chief. Anything goes to distract the unwashed masses from his mediocre performance to date as President.

    Carl Nemo **==

  6. woody188

    July 15, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    The mainstream media has always portrayed Mr. Martin in as positive a light as possible while portraying Mr. Zimmerman in as negative a light as possible, and even claiming racial motivations in Mr. Martin’s death. They use old photos of Mr. Martin. They fail to mention he was on drugs and had a history of fighting. They fail to mention he was bigger than Mr. Zimmerman. They fail to mention he could have returned home safe and sound but decided to return to Mr. Zimmerman’s car instead to confront him. They fail to mention what Mr. Martin said to Mr. Zimmerman before attacking him. They continually portray Mr. Martin as the victim, when Mr. Zimmerman was the one attacked and forced to defend himself as decided by law enforcement and a jury of his peers. The media has done everything in their power to show this a white versus black case, which it never was. And they have done their very best to incite rioting when the verdict was announced.

    I believe this is what your clergyman was referring.

    • Jon

      July 17, 2013 at 7:57 am

      Mr. Martin is dead.

      Who else shall speak for him?

      J.

  7. Carl Nemo **==

    July 15, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Well stated Woody188 in addition to the fact that the judge suppressed evidence that would suggest the teen had a propensity for violence.

    To me, this is ludicrous in the interest of justice. The only thing I can think is that the judge did so in order to turn the case into one of race which is not so. I read to the effect that Mr. Zimmerman had a black business partner at one time which I found interesting.

    Here’s a link concerning the judge’s suppression of evidence and its content which would have surely influenced the jurors against the teen.

    The link is from a reliable news source too and not some backwater fringe site.

    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/28/18556018-judge-denies-delay-bars-evidence-in-george-zimmerman-trial-for-now?lite

    Carl Nemo **==

    • woody188

      July 15, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      I did not know Mr. Martin liked to film his friends beating up homeless people. Karma?

      Thanks for the link!

  8. woody188

    July 15, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    The neighborhood-watch volunteer contends the network’s March 27, 2012 “Today” broadcast painted him as a racist by editing out significant portions of the discussion he had with police, The Washington Post reports.

    NBC’s abridged version of the conversation stated that Zimmerman told police, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

    The full tape of the call went like this:
    Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
    Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
    Zimmerman: He looks black.

    http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/NBC-defamation-black-tape/2013/07/15/id/515061?s=al&promo_code=142CC-1

    • Carl Nemo **==

      July 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm

      So Zimmerman simply replied to the no doubt ‘profiling’ dispatcher (simply jest on my part). It would help responding officers to identify the perpetrator is why such a queestion would be asked.

      Florida is definitely mult-culturual for sure and such an inquiry on the part of the dispatcher is appropriate, but does not make either the dispatcher or Zimmerman racists.

      All I can surmsie this entire debacle as: A summertime distraction from the more serious issues at hand; I.E., the continual erosive/corrosive failure of America.

      We’ve all heard the expression “bread and circuses” in Roman times, well so too there are engineered societal ‘distractions’ for serving the same purposes.

      Carl Nemo **==

  9. Keith

    July 16, 2013 at 12:40 am

    I’m inclined to believe that this whole farce of a trial was whipped up by the race-baiting industry, the President and his cohorts Mssrs Sharpton, Jackson and Holder who were aided and abetted by their friends in the mainstream media.

    Indeed, even on the night of the incident (and based on all evidence available to them) the professional law enforcement officers did not hold George Zimmerman on charges. They saw what happened and labeled it for what it was: a cut and dried case of self-defense.

    However, the professional race-baiting cabal saw an opportunity to further the racist careers of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the Black Panthers. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, (et al), who then swept down on the Florida community refusing to admit that the 17-year-old dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe Trayvon Martin was at all responsible for his own bad decisions and known penchant for violence.

    Clearly, the jury got it right. But I also contend there was enough reasonable doubt about what really happened that night (remember, there were no witnesses) to render the need for a jury trial null and void.

    Now, I’m no lawyer. But I DO enough about the criminal justice system to state that the whole case should have been dismissed out of hand. It should NEVER have gone to trial in the first place.

    All of which leads me to believe that most of this pumped up media nonsense had a lot to do with the multiple scandals our esteemed President now finds himself in.

    From NSA snooping, to tapping reporter’s phones, to getting Mr. Snowden’s middle name wrong on a simple extradition request, all of which is contributing to his sagging popularity in the polls (even among his far left faithful) clearly, the President needed something to direct the mainstream media’s ever more embarrassing investigations elsewhere.

    The term “Wag the Dog” comes immediately to mind.

    However, now that Mr Zimmerman has been acquitted and the whole chicanery surrounding his trial has been exposed for what it was (a pumped-up farce) methinks our President’s entire “Wag the Dog” strategy has now very much backfired.

    What’s more, and by any measure, now that the entire story about what really happened that night in Florida has come to light, I also think most Americans believe the team of government prosecutors in the case should be disbarred and then tried and sent to jail themselves.

    These people arrogantly ignored an obvious case of self-defense, DELIBERATELY withheld crucial evidence from the defense, and then kowtowed to the politically correct (but nonetheless racist) lie that only black lives killed by non-blacks really matter.

    This is probably also why there are STILL no headlines, no protests, no prosecutions and no Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson, Barak Obama or Eric Holder meddling in the nonstop black-on-black slaughter that is now ongoing nightly in the so-called “gun-free” zone of their precious Chicago.

    Indeed, it is a proven fact that blacks kill more blacks in a single weekend in Chicago than the absolutely evil, Ku Klux Klan EVER did in the entire 50 years of its existence.

    But somehow I don’t expect we’ll ever hear a peep from CNN, HLN, Obama or Holder over THAT particular ongoing tragedy.

    And that’s really sad.

    • Carl Nemo **==

      July 16, 2013 at 8:14 am

      Solid analysis Keith concerning motives for the White House along with others who would have an agenda for elevating this case to one of blatant racism which it was not.

      It’s also been proposed that Obama & Co. want to use this case to continue on with their dead on arrival gun control legislation they wish to push down our collective throats. What’s sad is this President and his entourage are only six months into his last term in office, unless martial law is declared along the way and he becomes ‘El Presidente’ for life. Who knows what’s next for the American people on his watch. Scary indeed…!

      I’ve read both George Zimmerman’s and Trayvon Martin’s profiles from a number of sources and it seems they both had issues, Zimmerman a somewhat overly reactive zealot for policing the community and Martin as an out of control, seemingly very dangerous youth. This was a tragedy just waiting to happen with the defense on Zimmerman’s side focusing on a teen using deadly force of a physical nature when confronted by George Zimmerman as a function of his community watchman duties.

      This AM, Yahoo News has an article where both Mark O’Mara and Don West the defense team in the case plan on taking the procecutorial team to task for non disclosure concerning Trayvon’s profile. So too the judge should be held accountable for misconduct. Seemingly the State of Florida has unlimited funds for turning cases into protracted ‘dog and pony’ shows; e.g., the Tracy Anthony case being another example although different circumstances.

      The MSM benefits from these type cases since it provides sensationalist content for cable channels dedicated to covering high profile trials, so to tabloids etc. Ka-ching…ka ching goes the money machine for the benefit of advertisers while they turn America’s judicial system into a three ring circus event.

      I’ll supply this AM’s Yahoo link for convenience sake concerning the issue of prosecutorial misconduct.

      http://news.yahoo.com/zimmermans-lawyer-calls-prosecutors-disgrace-profession-025529776.html

      Carl Nemo **==

  10. sherry

    July 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    The initial reports were that white guy had shot a black kid. From the get go, it was stated the shooting was racially motivated. There were some newspapers showing what appeared to be a lighter skinned Zimmerman. Then it came out that Zimmerman was Hispanic.
    I do believe Zimmerman was wrong. I don’t believe the shooting was racial. Zimmerman was packin’ heat on patrol. Wanna be cop. When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
    Anything young, in hoodie would have drawn the same response.
    My neighbors in SW County, Roanoke, VA look out for each other. If we see something suspicious, we call the cops. NO ONE would EVER confront someone who looks like they are up to no good. That is why we have a police force. My tax dollars at work

    • woody188

      July 16, 2013 at 11:34 pm

      Had Mr. Martin simply introduced himself and asked why Mr. Zimmerman was following him, and explained he was staying with his father’s fiancee just down the block, none of this would have happened. Why was there a break down in communication?

      Why did Mr. Martin circle back around to Mr. Zimmerman’s vehicle when he could have proceeded home?

      Why did Mr. Martin ask Mr Zimmerman, “Do you have a problem?”

      Mr. Zimmerman said only, “No,” when Mr. Martin replies, “You do now!” and proceeds to attack Mr. Zimmerman.

      Seems to me the one that thought he was a hammer was Mr. Martin.

      • Jon

        July 17, 2013 at 8:01 am

        Did Mr. Zimmerman have any reasonable suspicion of Mr. Martin (sorry, ‘being black in a white place’ does not constitute reasonable suspicion)? Then why did he a) follow him around and b) then confront him personally?

        There was fault on both sides. Mr. Martin wound up dead. Who do you think suffered more?

        J.

  11. Purple

    July 17, 2013 at 3:32 am

    It was local news, and should have remained so.

    • Carl Nemo **==

      July 17, 2013 at 7:53 am

      Spot-on commentary “Purple”…! At times the shortest post packs the greatest wisdom. : )

      Carl Nemo **==

    • Jon

      July 17, 2013 at 8:04 am

      If one person lethally shooting another is so typical as to not make headlines beyond the city limits, then I cry for my country.

      It is true, but it should be so rare as to be a blockbuster.

      J.

      • Carl Nemo **==

        July 17, 2013 at 9:02 am

        Unfortunately Jon, life becomes extremely cheap among larger populations. I’m sure the Chinese press reports every violent death occurring among their huge population…NOT! Life is very cheap indeed within those populace regions.

        So this case seemingly was intentionally sensationalized for the purpose of selling ‘copy’ along with political gain as Keith so proposes. It’s been a ‘ka ching’ event for the MSM and their media outlets.

        Carl Nemo **==

  12. edwin jose valentin

    July 17, 2013 at 9:55 am

    you need to select jurors ho understand the meaning
    of the word guilty and innocent.it seams that the lawyer make made a big mistake by piking 5 juror instead of 12 juror.in my opinion 5 juror is not fair trail.