Fox News and conservative media has been reporting that black protesters have been hunting white citizens in retaliation for the recent police shooting, including a reporter who said in a YouTube statement that he had to leave the area in fear of being killed. The question is, if these reports are true, why there has been no hate crime reporting or Justice Department investigation. There is also a sharp conflict raised over CNN’s reporting of the statements of Sylville Smith’s sister. The sharp contrast in coverage suggests either exaggeration from one side or avoidance from another. There of course should only be one side in the reporting of news, but this is the latest example of the reason why so many mistrust the media.
The riots began after the 23-year-old Sylville Smith was shot by a black patrol officer. He was armed with a stolen gun and fled from a car during a traffic stop. The loaded gun had been stolen in an earlier burglary. Smith had reportedly an extensive criminal record. The police appear to have have body cameras so we will hopefully be able to learn more about the reason for the shooting, though the officers stated that they fired after the gun was brandished or pointed at them.
Independent journalist Tim Pool received acclaim in his coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He also has reported that whites were being hunted down. While Pool expressed sympathy with the protesters, he stated “For those that are perceivably white, it is just not safe to be here. And that’s why I’m deciding to leave.”
Fox has also shown videos of groups calling for the running down of whites seen on the streets.
None of this means that all or most of the protesters are engaging in racist retaliation. However, the sharp contrast in reporting is precisely why people increasingly view media as pursuing hidden agendas or shaping the news.
Another sharp contrast is found between the Washington Times and CNN. The Washington Times has accused CNN of editing out the words of Sylville Smith’s sister who called for attacks on the suburbs. Instead, CNN reported that she called for peace and no violence.
CNN showed Sherelle Smith telling protesters: “Don’t bring the violence here and the ignorance here.” In both broadcast and Web stories, CNN framed Smith as calling for peace. However, the Washington Times said that CNN cut away before Smith yelled” “Stop burning down shit we need in our community. Take that shit to the suburbs. Burn they shit down. We need our shit. We need our weaves. I don’t wear it. But we need it.”
That is a very different take from the CNN.com article saying that Smith “condemned violence carried out in her brother’s name, saying the community needs those businesses.” More importantly, it is also obvious news if the sister of the victim is telling people to burn down the suburbs. Reporters are not supposed to shape the news. The report it. That is news. It is also legitimate to explore the history of race tensions and segregation in Milwaukee — the underling anger that erupted into the streets. Likewise, it is obviously news if there are racist retaliatory attacks and whites being chased down streets or pulled from cars. These conflicting piece raise troubling questions of how our media has diverged over preferred narratives as opposed to fully reporting all of these elements.