Written by: Ben Atlas
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American boy from Sanford, Florida, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman on Feb. 26. Zimmerman, a 28 year-old multiracial Hispanic, has been accused of murder fueled by racism. The incident sparked outrage around the country. Although the trial is still going on, evidence has been completely skewed by the often partisan media. News reports claiming to be impartial have instead provided biased views and have rushed to sensationalize the controversial case, giving inaccurate details due to their haste.
The Trayvon Martin case is just one example of news outlets choosing to portray a story is much easier to sell than reporting on the facts. A report on how a “cruel” white man brutally murdered an innocent black teen is appealing to the public. However, since some facts were not accurately reported until later in the investigation, it does not becomes clear until too late that this is indeed not the true background of the case.
According to Yahoo! News, phone call recordings were doctored to leave out certain portions that contained evidence towards vindicating Zimmerman. In a call to a police dispatcher, Zimmerman said, “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.” Then, Zimmerman was asked what race Martin was. Zimmerman responded with, “He’s black.” The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) played a recording of the conversation on the news, but the question concerned was omitted. Thus, Zimmerman appeared to be accusing Martin of being “up to no good” because he was black. Cable News Network (CNN) reported that Zimmerman said “coon” over the phone, before retracting its statement due to an improved recording revealing that he had said “cold,” and not “coon.” This is an example of CNN reporting before they had the highly important upgraded audio reporting and skewing the facts.
Furthermore, evidence of an assault on Zimmerman was not released for a good deal of time, making the incident appear to be blatant murder. Photos of Martin were brightened and photoshopped in order to make him appear more innocent. Additionally, Zimmerman was portrayed as white to create the typical scenario of hate and racism. The media promoted its own agenda rather than report the fact. Since exposing a tragic hate-killing of a poor black boy by a white man is more appealing to the masses, that image was projected.
Because of the failure on the part of modern media and news sources to report the facts without manipulation, there is no longer a desire for a good outcome to the court case. Should the jury vindicate Zimmerman, he will never again live a normal life; Zimmerman has already received multiple death threats and currently lives in hiding—if he’s found innocent, these demons will continue to haunt him. If the jury finds Zimmerman guilty, Martin’s family will leave with a tainted victory, not knowing if the jury’s decision was based on fact or on the media campaign against Zimmerman. Justice has been obstructed through various inaccuracies in reporting.
Modern media should give more thought to bringing out the truth. Since so many stations have biases and have already taken sides, it is exceedingly difficult to get an impartial report. Whether a news company is too quick to make a story, and fails to first verify their facts, or is outrightly partisan, such misinformation is easily portrayed. Since news sources play such an important role in determining citizens’ opinions, unverified facts and biased reporting can have an indelible effect on the lives of people such as Zimmerman.