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Opinion

Opinion

Faulty reports inflamed reaction to Florida shooting

April 7, 2012

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The tragic shooting death of a Florida teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer has triggered protests throughout the country and hearings in our nation’s capital and provided fodder for those who want to inject racism into the picture.

The Florida teenager was African-American, and the watchman is Hispanic.

The fatal shooting happened several weeks ago, with the young man’s body remaining in the morgue for several days before his family was notified. Police did not detain the watchman, saying he had acted in self-defense under the “stand your ground” concept. Florida officials have not said whether they intend to arrest or prosecute the watchman.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the tragic shooting added sparks to an already highly combustible racial tinderbox where some seem to be looking for almost any excuse to ignite dangerous racial reactions.

In far too many situations like this, first reactions, first charges and countercharges and first explanations are based on inaccurate or incomplete information. And, in too many situations, these first reactions can set an inaccurate stage that can spark careless and harmful reactions.

Unfortunately, some of the early news reports of the shooting failed to give an accurate description of the actions of the watchman and the young man or police officers. Whether or not these reports were flawed accidentally or on purpose remains to be determined, but they added to the explosiveness of the situation.

NBC radio officials have acknowledged they edited or censored the initial conversation between the watchman and police officers when the watchman called to tell officers he was following a suspicious-acting individual. Police officers asked if the person was “black, white or Hispanic,” to which the watchman responded, “He looks black.”

The NBC radio report was trimmed, edited or censored to suggest the watchman volunteered to police, with no prompting or question, that the young man was black.

This caused many to claim the shooting was due to racial profiling, which, in turn, resulted in the massive outbursts condemning the watchman and claiming it was a case of racial bias.

It is a clear case of editing or censorship, not likely an accident. The big question is, why? Was someone trying to inject racism or trying to incite the public?

The same could and should be asked about the ABC television report that tried to present a inaccurate picture of the watchman. ABC TV pictures showed the watchman getting out of a police car and waking around in an enclosed garage. TV commentators pointed out there was no sign of a head injury or blood even though a witness to the accident claimed the teenager had punched or knocked the watchman to the ground and pounded his head into the sidewalk. The announcer emphasized they had made a close and careful examination of the pictures and that there was no evidence of injury.

Later, in the same, or very similar television pictures, showing the same scene, viewers could see a bloodied head and were told there was blood on a shirt. Also, reports said the watchman had been cleaned up a bit before getting to the police station.

The point is, the media, this time NBC and ABC, gave an inaccurate report.

NBC spokespeople merely said “an error” had been made in the production process.

ABC hasn’t said what happened in the report that a close, careful examination of their TV picture showed no evidence of blood.

True, mistakes are bound to happen, but in a case so sensitive as a shooting that resulted in the death of a black teenager by a volunteer Hispanic watchman, extra care could be taken to make sure the information presented by the news media is accurate.

There already is enough public skepticism about the media and its accuracy or fairness. Situations such as the NBC and ABC reports on the Florida shooting do nothing but provide added evidence for those who question the honesty of the media.

Some on the print media side will be quick to suggest radio and television are more in show business than news reporting, but instances of inaccuracy and dishonesty cannot be marginalized or tolerated.

Editorials and opinion are one thing, but facts are facts, and what NBC and ABC did was wrong, wrong as can be, and because of this supposed carelessness or deliberate editing, the shooting tragedy has escalated to an even higher, more dangerous level of anger, mistrust and racial tension.

Police and law enforcement officials already face a tough, delicate job in handling this case, but it was made even more difficult by the conflicting news reports. Will their actions be tempered or swayed by the intense pressure now being exerted?

The only way to resolve this situation is for the law to be followed in an open and honest way.

Again, the erroneous initial news reports by NBC and ABC have made this task more difficult.

Comments

KEITHMILES05 2 years ago

So, the fact murderer Zimmerman had 45 prior calls to 911 and they all involved black people doesn't shed light to his motive? Get real and be reasonable. LOL

There is a high suspicion murderer Zimmerman is telling the truth the altercation occured at his vehicle on the street. However, there are eye witness reports it did happen as was stated above in the "back" of some houses.

Martin had every right to defend himself from being stalked and provoked. The law is on his side.

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jaywalker 2 years ago

Spot on editorial. We have no true indication that this incident was racially motivated in any way and major news networks putting those sorts of things out there is beyond irresponsible and should be considered criminal. It's lucky there wasn't more violence due to those "errors."

One thing I haven't heard anyone question or analyze is the full chain of events. When Trayvon was shot they were in someone's backyards; the way it sounds the back of one house faces the back of another. So at some point the conflict went from the sidewalk or street or driveway, where Martin allegedly pounded Zimmerman's head, around a house into the backyard. If one of the witnesses saw just how they ended up in the backyard, it sure could paint a fuller picture of how and why things ended the way they did.

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dinglesmith 2 years ago

We do have one fact in evidence. A news organization doctored the 911 tape to minimally make it more inflammatory and most likely to falsify what was actually said. A second news organization may have simply made an error in reporting no head injury, but the jury is still out on that one. The first one was clearly doctoring.

Dolph asks why. It's quite simple really. News organizations - all of them - survive on advertising revenue. You watch more news when you are scared or angry. Thus, news organizations will always try to scare you or piss you off. Conservative, liberal, libertarian, marxist, totalitarian whatever the political bent of your news, the tactic works really, really well.

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Gareth 2 years ago

You can always spot a Dolph editorial by the headline.

It's so easy now, it's like shooting... unarmed teenagers in a barrel.

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its_just_math 2 years ago

Why isn't Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton up in arms about the fact 93% of blacks are murdered by other blacks? I guess that would not advance their race-baiting agenda now would it? Little 6 year old Aliyah Shell was gunned down on her front porch over St. Pat's weekend in Chicago---10 blacks were gunned down by other blacks St. Pat's weekend. Where was the outrage? Oh that's right, whites weren't the shooters. How much of a Kool-Aid drinker do you have to be to buy into this agenda? Apparently, alot.

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KEITHMILES05 2 years ago

But, but, but.............he had a past history of "gold teeth" which are seen with gang members! He was a bad boy and got expelled from school!! Oh, he had some alleged drug usage!!! My goodness........this is enough to MURDER him because he doesn't act and look like what some people on this message board want in America.

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tomatogrower 2 years ago

It was a kid! He was unarmed. The big tough adult did not have to even go up and talk to the kid. I don't care if the kid did hit him. He had no reason to even talk to the kid. He was wrong, whether race had anything to do with it, or not. He killed a human being who was unarmed. If he'd had a knife or a baseball bat or some other weapon, ok. But the kid only had his fist. Shooting him was wrong, and if it's not against the law in Florida, then they are hopeless immoral people in charge of that state. Is this a libertarian conservative thing? You have the right to shoot whomever you want? He wasn't even trespassing.

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Lawrence Morgan 2 years ago

Thank you, Dolph Simons, for this editorial. What you are speaking about is the role of the media in this, and it is very important. It is very hard to understand why these mistakes were made without invoking either racism and/or the gun laws and what they have produced in this society.

You are speaking about facts, and those are very important. The rest of the issues in the comments below are also about very important things, but they are not part of what you are speaking about in this editorial.

There has to be careful investigation into why ABC and NBC handled things the way they did. Were racism and/or gun laws involved? This is something that must come out in the open.

What made these people, in very high positions in the media, act this way? Were political pressures inside the corporations involved?

The results of this investigation of the media are important, because they affect the whole nation.

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brewmaster 2 years ago

The true, actual events of that night may never be known. Yet, there is one trueth that is known: black leaders and the media, especially NBC, egregiously misrepesented reality.

For example, until recently Trayvon was portrayed as an innocent, weak 12 year old child. In reality he was a 6 foot tall, physically fit, strapping young man of 17. There were no pictures offered of his many gold teeth. In reality that is a "dental look" typically adhered to by gang members. There was no mention of him being kicked out of school multiple times; most recently for drugs. That may indicate he had a history of perpetual bad conduct. There was no mention of his Facebook and Twitter postings that bragged of punching a bus driver and other offensive, swearing posts. That may indicate he was angry and hostile.

Zimmerman was immediately profiled as an aggresive, racist. Yet, the mere suggestion of anything negative about Martin is / was immediately censored and discarded.

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KEITHMILES05 2 years ago

There is no Kool-aid to drink for me. Are you denying the basic fact that Zimmerman started the entire situation? Are you saying Martin had no right to defend himself?

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KEITHMILES05 2 years ago

What very, very little the "news media" changed in the reporting does not take away from the UNDISPUTED facts of the case. Who the hell cares of they said he was black when in fact the 911 person gave him various "black, white, brown" and what does that have to do with the fact so the case? Seriously, give me ONE fact which totally flaws this case. I am listening.

I don't care if the media is perceived as left or right. What happened in this case is an armed started the entire episode and he was unprovoked to do so. That is the key ingriedent and everything which happened after that comes back to this basic fact.

People need to stop the "left and right" name calling and throwing out your political beliefs to justify. Why is it that is more important than the death of an unarmed, unprovoked individual who just happens to be "black" and the murderer happens to be "brown"?????????????????????????

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its_just_math 2 years ago

The corruption in the lamestream media is being exposed, bit by bit. Their self-importance, and brazen attitude is all out there for everyone to see. This is nothing new. The race-baiters, the corrupt media and even the congressional black caucus, are being challenged with their crapola and they are madder than hornets that they can not shove their unabated race-baiting agenda down our throats are being taken head on by logical, thinking folks.

This country is deeply divided and the left has come apart at the seams because their agenda is under siege.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years ago

How did the Journal World treat the Dowdell deaths in during the riotous days of Lawrence that being the local press.

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yourworstnightmare 2 years ago

Mistakes were made all around, the first and largest being that Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed child and the second being that he was not arrested for this murder.

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Steven Gaudreau 2 years ago

I am under the impression the investigation is ongoing.

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Rich_Crank 2 years ago

Yes, the media (all media) and their staff make - and will continue to make - mistakes. I understand the NBC editor responsible for that network's mistake has been fired. ABC apparently did not alter the video they aired so that seems far less egregious to me. Too many mistakes in either judgement or action clearly are present here. But it's obvious the first, largest, and most crucial mistakes (a series of them on his part) were Zimmerman's, and those were fatal.

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its_just_math 2 years ago

It's not as easy for the leftist media to get away with their BS anymore. This has them and The Anointed One and his ilk ticked off beyond belief.

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Flap Doodle 2 years ago

"...the basic, undisputable facts point to Zimmerman iniatating the entire episode and it was totally unprovoked and murdering Martin..." Self-defense in the face of assault and battery isn't murder.

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KEITHMILES05 2 years ago

No, what you "heard" is absolute mockery of the truth and that is babbling put forth by those who want to "believe" Zimmerman could not have shot an innocent kid.

The fact is the altercation did NOT take place by his vehicle and street but closer to the houses. The FACT is Zimmerman started the entire episode by not minding his business, trailing Martin, getting out of his vehicle and started stalking Martin and was then expressly told to stop doing that. Numerous reports (per 911) of callers saying they could hear screams and these screams are hear on 911 and they are in fact of a younger person and not older man. Whether or not Zimmerman said a racist comment on the 911 call isn't that relevant. What is relevant this situation would have never, EVER occured had he minded his own damn business! Furthermore, it has been documented Zimmerman had made approximately 45 other 911 calls previously and each and every person he called about was BLACK. Hence, he most certainly had a thing against black people and I wouldn't be suprised at all if he is charged with the federal statue of hate crimes.

Martin had every right to defend himself from Zimmerman and this is why the Stand Your Ground law should be used against Zimmerman. The prosecutor had it totally backwards and should have charged him and in fact the detective in charge of the case wanted Zimmerman charged but was over ruled. Sadly, the only person which would be able to give his own account of what happened is dead.

Lastly, for any poster spouting "I don't know what happened" then shame on you! Before saying something dumb like that you need to educate yourself via internet reports, tv reports, print reports, etc. There are thousands of them out there and the basic, undisputable facts point to Zimmerman iniatating the entire episode and it was totally unprovoked and murdering Martin. There are many smaller details but those are filler information only.

At the end of the day this is huge injustice and America must rise up to demand public officials be held accountable. If laws need to change then so be it.

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jafs 2 years ago

This is an egregious error by two major news organizations - everybody should be vocally criticizing them for it - the function of news organizations is to present facts to the public.

Of course, this should also apply to Fox News as well.

I predict I will have little agreement on this comment - liberals will apply it to Fox, but not NBC, and conservatives will do the opposite.

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Cait McKnelly 2 years ago

No matter what the specific word was that Zimmerman called him, he called him something and it wasn't nice nor was it friendly. The "stand your ground" law is for direct attack or home invasion, neither of which Martin was doing. In fact, had the case been reversed and Martin had shot Zimmerman, he would have had a case for that defense as Zimmerman stalked him then got out of his vehicle and confronted him. If Martin attacked him, thinking he was being attacked himself, then Zimmerman provoked that attack and he has no legal standing to be using that law, especially as he was specifically told by police not to leave his vehicle. As it stands, the police chief has stepped aside from the case and the local prosecutor recused himself and turned it over to a state appointed special prosecutor for investigation. Let them handle it. I will only say this; if the state permits Zimmerman to get away with this they are setting a precedent for allowing legalized murder by provocation. Not only do "elections have consequences" so does legislation. and those consequences may not be what was intended.

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tomatogrower 2 years ago

Race or not. How can some big bad guy with a gun get a away with shooting and killing a kid walking down the street!!!! Maybe we shouldn't have made this about race! He could have been my son wearing a hoodie. What did he do that was wrong? Why didn't this jerk wait for the police, like he was told? He should be charged with something. You can't just kill an unarmed person and get away with it. That would open the doors to a whole lot of murders. Neighborhood watch! Not Neighborhood shoot to kill. I wouldn't hire this rent a cop for my security.

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Bushloather1 2 years ago

Watchman? What watchman? You meant "shooter" right Dolph? Or maybe "armed stalker"? Calling Martin a "f*%king C@@n" in the 911 call might cause reasonable folks to suspect a racial motivation here too. But not Dolph!

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Jackie Jackasserson 2 years ago

Didn't a news source play part of the call where Mr. Zimmerman was told to to remain IN his car?

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skinny 2 years ago

Rogers, Your post is full of errors as far as the facts go. How about waiting until you know the whole story before you go running off at the mouth!

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RogersState80 2 years ago

George Zimmerman killed an unarmed teenager. He shot treyvon multiple times. Was this necessary? Furthermore, when conducting a proper neighborhood watch you are supposed to call the police if you see something suspicious. You are not supposed to run around the neighborhood and play cop while you follow people with a gun. Because Zimmerman chose to act like a mad man he got into a fight. Maybe next time he will stay at home and call the police. Hopefully we can get this nut off the streets before he kills anyone else.

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abit_pssd 2 years ago

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