Media bias in Trayvon Martin case

Carly Yamrus

Even those who are unfamiliar with the Trayvon Martin case could look at the media pictures and decide who was innocent and who was guilty.

The 17-year-old African American man was shot on February 28 by self-appointed Neighborhood Watch Captain, George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic. Martin was walking to a family member’s house after he bought a bag of skittles and an iced tea at a convenience store in Stanford, FL.

After Zimmerman called 911, the operator told him not to pursue the boy and that officers were on their way. He ignored the instruction and went after Martin. There was an altercation, and then a gun shot. Zimmerman was not arrested because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that allows the use of weapons for self-defense if a threat is perceived.

Although no one has been convicted and the case remains unclear, it is apparent which way the media has swayed. The pictures of Martin and Zimmerman hardly resemble what they look like today. The photo used for Martin is a picture of him as a young boy, around 13 years old with a baby face. The picture of Zimmerman portrays him as a criminal, dressed in an orange shirt. Anyone looking at this picture would assume he was already convicted.

Recent photographs of the Zimmerman and Martin in a different light. In these pictures, Zimmerman looks like a nice guy, smiling in a suit and tie. Martin looks more like an adult, wearing a hoodie and lowering his eyes.

After comparing these pictures, it is unclear who the victim was and who the aggressor was. Media bias in this case is apparent. It is important for media to present the facts so that the public receives an accurate representation of the event. This is not always the case however, since media sensationalizes stories to get more readership or viewership.  NBC for example, took the 9-1-1 call and edited it to make Zimmerman seem racist. NBC quoted Zimmerman saying, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.” In reality, the dispatcher was simply asking Zimmerman what the suspect looked like, if he was White, Hispanic, or Black. What Zimmerman actually said was, “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.” This example of selective editing is highly unethical from a journalism standpoint, where one of the most basic rules is to never change the meaning of a quotation.

The facts of this case are still emerging months later, yet the media decided early on that this was an unjustified killing based on racial intolerance. They are painting a picture of what they want you to believe. The media would never tell you that Martin had several large tattoos or that he sported gold teeth in recent pictures. His Twitter name had a derogatory racial slur in it, and rumors of drug dealing have surfaced. But the mainstream media would never tell you any of these tidbits of information because they certainly do not support the baby-faced image that America has sympathized with in the past few months.

We put our trust into the hands of the media to give us fair and accurate news. Who can we trust if the media reports unfairly and inaccurately?