Commentary: Nation Divided About Trayvon Press Coverage

Transmission masts from television trucks are seen around an U.S. flag flying above Sanford City Hall following a news conference in Sanford, Florida March 27, 2012. Florida teen Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old, was shot on February 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in a suburb of Orlando, Florida.      REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST MEDIA)

Commentary: Nation Divided About Trayvon Press Coverage

There’s a growing divide between how Americans are looking at the growing number of media outlets looking thoroughly into the Martin story. African-Americans and Democrats are following Martin’s death far more closely than whites and Republicans.

Published April 6, 2012

Now that there’s little new information coming in about the actual Trayvon Martin shooting, people intrigued by the Orlando, Florida, drama have been forced to start looking to the incident’s fringes for new things to discuss. For the Pew Research Center’s press and media arm, that meant looking into the press coverage of the Martin killing, and attempting to extrapolate meaning from it.

According to Pew, there’s a growing divide in how Americans are looking at the growing number of media outlets covering the Martin story. As you might imagine — and it’s sad when life is such a cliché — African-Americans and Democrats are following Martin’s death far more closely than whites and Republicans:

African-Americans are far more likely than whites to say they are closely tracking news about the Florida teenager’s death. Fully 58% cite news about Trayvon Martin’s killing as their top story, compared with 24% of whites. Moreover, 43% of whites say the story has received too much coverage, compared with just 16% of Blacks.  

Democrats, regardless of race, are following Martin’s death more closely than are Republicans. Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (38%), including 31% of white Democrats, say the killing of Trayvon Martin is their top story; just 19% of Republicans are following this story most closely.

The differences in how people are consuming the media around Trayvon and his killer, George Zimmerman, reflect the way people are feeling about the shooting case itself. In another poll, this one from Gallup, Americans are divided by race when it comes to their feelings on justice:

In one of the starkest differences, 73% of Black people said they think George Zimmerman would have been arrested if Trayvon was white; only 33% of white people agreed. The majority of white people polled — 52% — said race made no difference in the way the case was handled.

If there’s anything to be taken from these differences of opinion, it is not that the majority of white people in America are racist. What’s more likely is that some white people have a harder time understanding the ugly ways racial politics play themselves out in American justice.

Blacks, despite all their optimism, often have a better understanding of the prejudices inherent in criminal justice, leading them to be more skeptical of police motives when it comes to cases like Trayvon’s.

It doesn’t matter how many or how few articles there are about Trayvon. For some people it will always be too many, and for other people it will always be too few. And those are beliefs that were ingrained long before Martin was dead and Zimmerman was hiding from death threats.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Written by Cord Jefferson


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