Media guilty of crimes in Trayvon Martin case

By Emily Merlino

There have been many people characterized as villains in the Trayvon Martin case, among them being: George Zimmerman, the Sanford Police Department and even the parents of Martin themselves, for allegedly attempting to commercialize their deceased son’s name.

However, there is one scoundrel that has so far slipped under the radar and must be called out for their offenses – the media.

As a public, we know very little in the way of hard facts about the case. Zimmerman may or may not have called for help. Martin may or may not have injured Zimmerman. Zimmerman may or may not have uttered a racial slur when chasing Martin.

The information we do know, however, comes primarily in the form of social media. That is a ruinous problem. A case cannot be made for or against Zimmerman in the form of 140 character trending topics or a Facebook status, no matter how many retweets or likes the message gets, but everyone from Al Sharpton to President Barack Obama himself seems to have already decided the fate of the nonexistent Zimmerman trial before it’s even begun. And it’s all the fault of the media, who have resorted to the condemned form of sensationalized reporting known as “yellow journalism.”

Butchered quotes, doctored audio and video cut to match the network’s bias have all been symptoms of the media’s frenzied obsession with gathering public attention for this case.

Of course, public attention needs to be given to this tragic, violent event that left a young boy dead, but purposefully deceiving to the public is absolutely not the way to do it. To mislead people about such a complicated crime is unfair to all parties involved in the case and frankly is a negative testament to what our news sources have become: button-pushing machines more focused on ratings than news.

For example, the Daily Caller carelessly attempted to paint a rather negative picture of Martin, who, although less-than-angelic, seemed to be a fairly typical, if rather troublesome, high-schooler, getting in trouble for marijuana, truancy and defacing school property. The conservative news site published 152 pages of what they claimed were Martin’s tweets in an effort to expose Martin’s dark side. There has been no confirmation from Martin’s friends or family that the tweets are indeed his, but if they are, they detail what appears to be a decidedly normal young boy’s daily life. The tweets don’t mention anything criminal, so it is unclear what the Daily Caller’s purpose was in uploading these tweets.

Furthermore, the same website published photos taken from the surveillance video of Zimmerman entering a police precinct. The video, which has thus far been one of the most crucial pieces of evidence in the case, shows Zimmerman apparently free of the head and nose injuries he claims to have received from Martin, but the Daily Caller enhanced the images from the video and Photoshopped arrows into the photo to draw attention to what may or may not be a scar or laceration on Zimmerman’s head.

There is no conclusive evidence that Zimmerman was indeed hurt, and enhancing and Photoshopping a picture to fuel the fire that Martin was a troublemaker and essentially asking for his fate is disgusting and reprehensibly sensationalistic.

Even the major companies Americans use as trusted sources of the news couldn’t resist fanning the flames. “The Today Show” aired a conversation between Zimmerman and a 911 dispatcher that occurred shortly before the shooting. In the audio aired by “The Today Show,” Zimmerman apparently said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

The actual conversation is far less incriminating for Zimmerman, at least of a hate crime or racial profiling. In reality, Zimmerman was merely responding to the dispatcher’s question of what race Martin was. According to the Washington Post, the true conversation reads:

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.”

Doctoring the audio to accuse Zimmerman of racial profiling is not only wrong, it’s a potentially libelous lie, and one that “The Today Show” should be ashamed of advertising.

In two more violent errors of judgment, the New Black Panthers Party has put a $10,000 bounty for the citizen’s arrest of Zimmerman and Spike Lee tweeted an innocent family’s address as Zimmerman’s. The only possible outcome of such statements is more violence, which is contradictory and doesn’t solve anything.

Even Obama has given his input by emphasizing the importance of taking “this with the seriousness it deserves and … [getting] to the bottom of what happened.” Obama knows just as much as the rest of us, which is very little. As Wallace Alcom of the Austin Daily Herald stated, “the man is not guilty because the president thinks he is.”The media tends to crucify defendants prematurely, and while it is unlikely that information will surface that will prove Zimmerman innocent, it is still foolish of the media to find someone guilty before he has even been arrested. Like it or not, innocent until proven guilty is the procedure America’s judicial system is based on. To feed the American public embellished news is a crime in and of itself.

Emily Merlino is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]