How Race Influenced News Headlines and Boardrooms

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery reports from Ferguson, Mo., before his arrest Aug. 13, 2014.

A year in the quest for news media that look like America:

The Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in the previously obscure St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer reverberated around the world as it came to symbolize unpunished police killings of black men.

1. Ferguson

The fatal shooting of Brown was followed by the case of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., who died when a police officer put him in a chokehold after confronting him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. Then came the story of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy holding a novelty pellet gun, shot dead by police in a Cleveland park.

In the Brown and Garner cases, grand juries declined to indict the officer, prompting waves of public protests as marchers chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” Even before the decision not to indict, protesters in Ferguson looted and burned to express their anger.

According to the annual diversity census by the American Society of News Editors, the newsroom of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is 7.1 percent black, while U.S. Census figures put the city of St. Louis at 49.29 percent black and St. Louis County at 23.7 percent black.

“Certainly, it is unfortunate that our numbers are not higher in that regard,” Adam Goodman, a deputy managing editor at the Post-Dispatch, told Journal-isms by telephone on Aug. 11. Asked to elaborate, he said, “[unfortunate] in terms of sourcing and getting out in the community and talking to people. It was a dangerous scene last night. It doesn’t matter who it was. Unfortunately it was pretty unpredictable.” But having more black journalists might mean “better ideas on following up, and just in terms of ideas and coverage.”

Still, the National Press Foundation this month chose Post-Dispatch Editor Gilbert Bailon for theBenjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award for guiding his news organization through the shooting and the tumultuous aftermath. “If ever a newspaper and its editor faced a real-time stress test, it was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and editor Gilbert Bailon in 2014,” the judges said.

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Source: The Root |  

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