Guest Post by: Adam Brown, Student
In the weeks following the shooting of Michael Brown, many stories and articles surfaced regarding the incident and the people involved. One in particular disturbed me. The New York Times put out a profile, just days before the burial of Brown, that portrayed him as being the bad guy. The article made statements such as, Brown “was no angel” and he “dabbled in drugs.” This was especially upsetting to those who remembered how the Boston Bomber was portrayed.
When the Rolling Stone wrote their cover story about the Boston Bomber, they almost made the reader feel that the Bomber was a likeable guy. The Bomber, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was made out to be a kid who just fell into the wrong group, as if it was not even his fault. They used phrases like “gentle demeanor,” “laid-back,” and “normal American kid.” They made him out to be a good kid. The way he was portrayed Tsarnaey was much nicer than how Michael Brown was portrayed.
How is it that an unarmed person shot by police is portrayed worse than a person who planted a bomb at an international marathon? Something is very wrong about that and a lot if it very well might lead back to how media outlets sell stories. They usually try to package stories in certain ways so that people will pay attention. For example, by pegging Brown as “no angel,” the New York Times created drama and tension in an another-side-to-the-story kind of way. Sadly, they succeeded. They may have gotten a lot of negative feedback for it, but they still got a lot of feedback generally, meaning a lot of people did take notice. It did catch people’s attention. Rolling Stone also sensationalized their story on the Boston Bomber. It also got a lot of attention.
Sensationalized depictions of both victims and perpetrators are ethically problematic. It would be easy to utterly condemn these media outlets if they were putting out lies about the subjects in question. However, they did not. What they did was spin the stories in ways that fit their agenda. The question is then, how do we combat this form of ethically skewed journalism? As I said before, if the New York Times and Rolling Stone were lying it would be easy to take legal action. So what do we do? I think the best thing to do is ignore such articles. Completely shun them. Do not give them attention, because that is what the media want. Attention. Without attention, media outlets cannot justify skewing stories in order to get people to read their articles.