Many have been complaining about the sad state of reporting. In order to get a quick story out with the least amount of resistance, too many journalists have allowed themselves to be co-opted by the powerful. This has allowed truthful narratives to be blurred and doubt to be introduced where there should be none.
So is the case with the New York Times article titled “Shooting Accounts Differ as Holder Schedules Visit to Ferguson” by Frances Robles and Michael S. Schmidt on August 19, 2014. The article is a defense attorney’s dream, however flawed. The first paragraph of the article sets the tone:
As a county grand jury prepared to hear evidence on Wednesday in the shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer that touched off 10 days of unrest here, witnesses have given investigators sharply conflicting accounts of the killing.
The realty is that most of the assertions from eyewitnesses are not in fact "sharply conflicting." This post is not an attempt to refute the article point by point because Lawrence O’Donnell does it masterfully in his video segment above. The point of this post is to illustrate how the media can be used to drive a false narrative.
When the New York Times says that there are sharp conflicting stories it is believed by most Americans based on the gravitas of the newspaper. No one should forget that stories by New York Times journalist Judith Miller was instrumental in setting the narrative for America’s entry into the Iraq War. This narrative of conflicting eyewitness statements lays the groundwork to make a no bill by the grand jury or an acquittal by any jury of Darren Wilson, Michael Brown’s killer, an accepted outcome.
Yesterday actor/activist Jesse Williams had a prescient statement on MSNBC that should be heeded by all including those that report the news. Essentially he implores that we are careful about who we use as our news sources:
Who will be the victor? The aggrieved citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, must ensure that they are the victors so they are the ones telling their story.