News of Florida student’s shooting goes unreported for weeks
A neighborhood crime watch volunteer fatally shot an unarmed teenager in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26. The suspect, George Zimmerman, 28, has not been charged in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Although this story hit headlines in Orlando the very next day, it took nearly a full month for the national media to pick up the story.
By mid-March, through the use of Facebook and Twitter, word spread of the shooting. This story has transcended the typical coverage of a tragic young death, and has turned into an exposé on the media’s flaws in its coverage of breaking news.
Zimmerman spotted Martin walking home from the local convenience store on a rainy night, with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head. Zimmerman argued that his actions were on the basis of self-defense.
According to news reports, Zimmerman suffered a broken nose and a gash to his head in an altercation with Martin, in which Zimmerman asserted that he was not the aggressor.
However, local police made the decision not to file charges against Zimmerman, spurring a national outcry against Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” legislation, which gives the benefit of the doubt to a suspect who has claimed self-defense.
In addition to the utilization of social media, news coverage of Martin’s death can also be attributed to his family’s lawyer, Daryl D. Parks.
According to Brian Stelter, media reporter at The New York Times, the attorney has made it his goal to “pursue legal action and persuade sympathetic members of the media to cover the case. Just as importantly, the family members were willing to answer the same painful questions over and over at news conferences and in TV interviews.”
In response to the spread of this story through social media and the efforts of Martin’s family, many people have questioned how long it would have taken the national news media to cover the shooting on its own.
“Notably, many of the national media figures who initially devoted time to the shooting are black, which to some is a case study in the need for diversity in newsrooms,” explained Stelter. “The racial and ethnic makeup of newsrooms, where minorities tend to be underrepresented, has long been a source of tension for the news industry.”
Zimmerman’s safety in the aftermath of this crime has also become a cause of concern in the media’s coverage. Zimmerman, who is now staying at an undisclosed location, has received numerous widely circulated death threats, as well as word of a $10,000 bounty on his head.
In the event that charges are filed against Zimmerman, legal adviser Craig Sonner will be his representation.
Numerous celebrities and political officials have stepped forward in the hopes of raising awareness of what took place, including Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has promised a thorough investigation of the incident.