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Imagine waking up at 2 a.m. to find seven strangers in your bedroom just down the hall from where your four kids are sleeping. Imagine that when you scream, they run away laughing. Now, imagine that the police tell you that it was "a silly prank" and they can't make an arrest. It happened a couple of weeks ago in Florida to the family of Miami Heat's Ray Allen. Welcome to the world of moneyed privilege. Read what this has to do with Michael Brown and how the media reports on crime below the pretty orange squiggle.
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On Thursday, August 14, Shannon Walker Allen, wife of basketball player Ray Allen, was awakened around 2 a.m. by loud voices in her house - in her bedroom. She sat up to find at least five strangers standing around the room, talking and laughing. When she screamed, they ran from the room, down the stairs and out the back door.

Pretty scary, right? Not if you read the report in the Miami Herald later in the week. Check out the language used in the reporting. I bolded it to make it a little easier for you.

A night of bonfires on the beach, music and s’mores quickly turned into a crime scene when six men and one woman — all 18, except one 19-year-old — took an unauthorized tour of the Allens’ home at 2:31 a.m. on Aug. 14, while Allen’s wife, Shannon Walker Allen, lay asleep with her four children in her bedroom
She said the kids were all “good kids’’ who had just graduated from high school. They were spending one more evening together before heading to college and ended up doing something “stupid.’’
-mother of one of the kids
The young adults gathered at the beach, built a bonfire, listened to music, ate s’mores and reminisced before heading off to college. -reporter
The seven ran down the stairs, scampered out the back French door from which they entered and returned to the beach to collect their belongings.
-reporter
Earlier, Gables police said in a statement, “Although the individuals had entered the residence, there was no proof that they had the intent to commit any crimes inside. The Miami-Dade County state attorney’s office advised the detectives that no arrests should be made at that time, in that the elements of a burglary had not been met [and] that the appropriate charge in this case was the crime of trespass in an occupied structure, a misdemeanor.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/...

The seven young adults who traipsed through Ray Allen’s home last week in the middle of the night have been charged Wednesday with trespassing of an occupied structure
“Each of them truly regrets having this happen at all,’’ said Alan Ross, a Miami criminal defense attorney. “Each of them understands how their mother would have acted if she would have found strangers in their home.”

He said his clients dropped off a written apology at the Tahiti Beach guard gate. He said he sent Allen’s attorney the letter as well.

“I’ve never seen a group of finer young people who truly understand the stress that they’ve caused Mrs. Allen and Mr. Allen; he was out of town, unable to protect his family, with strange people in his home. I hope they got it.”

“If the Allens want to leave a lasting impression on these young adults, the diversion program will do a better job of that than just letting them run through the system and receive a withhold,’’ said David Weinstein, a former Miami-Dade prosecutor.
“When you turn 18 you’re no longer a kid. But at the end of the day, they’re kids,” he said. “They graduated high school. They are going off to college. The script is: They find themselves interested in a celebrity’s home and made a bad decision. They solely regret it. There was no intent to do anything bad and the bottom line is, they didn’t do any harm.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/...

So, let's be clear. Seven young adults unlawfully entered an occupied home in the middle of the night, terrified the female homeowner with their presence before fleeing the scene and congregating at the home of a friend, where they had ample time to compare their stories. But according to the newspapers, they "took an unauthorized tour," they "traipsed," they "scampered." They were "good kids." They "did something stupid." The police located them quickly, did not draw guns on them, did not arrest them, and they were only charged after the homeowners pressed charges with the DA's office.

Notice what's missing from all the reporting? Let me give you a few hints:

  • Did you read that Trayvon Martin was suspended from school?
  • Have you heard speculation that Michael Brown was "high on something" when he was shot by Darren Wilson?
  • Do you know that Renisha McBride had been drinking on the night she was murdered by Theodore Wafer?
  • Do you remember speculation that Jordan Davis had a gun - and theories about where it could have been ditched - on the night Michael Dunn killed him?
  • Did you see unflattering photos of the seven "fine kids" in any of the reporting?
    Hell, did you see any photos at all - other than stock photos of the Allens?

Those point out few key differences between the seven kids who invaded Ray Allen's home out of "curiosity" and the others I named. There's another key difference: the Miami seven are the perpetrators. Everyone else I mentioned was the victim of a homicide. And another: the seven are alive. The others won't get to "expunge their records" and "live up to the promise of their young lives."

I don't want to leave the impression that I think they should throw the book at these kids. I think diversion is probably an excellent solution, if the facts are exactly as they have been reported. I honestly don't think anyone should be trolling through their social media feeds for "incriminating" pictures to "show the kind of animals they really are." In fact, I think that every victim of violence - whether it's perpetrated by the police or by any other person - should receive the same respect from the press received by the seven defendants in this case.

When violent crimes happen in communities of color or to people of color, the victims and their families are often victimized again by the reporting bias of the media. They read that they live in "embattled communities." The stories frequently report that the police are "investigating gang ties" or that the victim was "known to police." They frequently include pictures of the victims with their stories - and the pictures they choose...well, check out #iftheygunnedmedown for more on that. If they dare report that the victim was a high school graduate, a community volunteer, a member of the church choir, a promising young athlete, an honor roll student, it will almost always be contested and balanced by a "however" report that the victim had marijuana in his system, or she was friends with gang members or had been subject to school disciplinary action. You will certainly never read that they "traipsed" or "scampered" anywhere.

The image at the top of this diary is a screen capture of Press Pass TV's Respect in Reportingcampaign. (Full disclosure: my daughter is a founding co-director of Press Pass TV. Yes, she makes me proud.) The Boston non-profit teaches youth to critically examine the media, engage with their communities, and create their own media and reporting. Their kids have won multiple awards for their media pieces - and have even scooped and schooled the local media on reporting in their own communities. I'm proud of everything they do, but I think I am most proud and most hopeful about this project, Respect in Reporting, which asks individuals, journalists, media organizations and journalism schools to recognize media bias in reporting and pledge to combat it.

From the pledge:

I pledge to support news that respects the communities it reports on and provides reporting that is compassionate, ethical and solution-oriented. I hope you will join me by following the guidelines that Press Pass TV has created, in partnership with survivors of homicide. The Respect in Reporting Campaign is empowering communities across the nation to hold media accountable for the real-life affects of harmful reporting.

The website lists a number of ways that individuals can take action on their pledge and provides tools to help you do it, including Newsjack, a pretty rad tool that lets you rewrite biased stories on any website in the website's own template, capture the image with your rewritten story, and share it on your own website or social sharing site to show the media how it should be done.

I know this diary is long, and I promise I can write shorter. I just want to share one more thing with you - the video that launched the Respect in Reporting campaign. This is why respect in reporting matters.

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