As the George Zimmerman trail progresses with the selection of the jury, media has renewed its coverage of the issue which can at times border on obsessive. Last Friday night, Black Entertainment Television (BET) decided to throw their hat into the already incredibly crowded ring and provide their version of news coverage of the George Zimmerman trial and preceding events in a half-hour special entitled, Justice for Trayvon: Our Son Is Your Son. The title plays off of a quote by Trayvon’s mother Sybrina that was made at a rally in support of her son.
The entire controversy centers on the 2012 shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin by then neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman and the ensuing lawsuit by the state of Florida. The prosecution charged Zimmerman with murder in the second degree while he claims to have shot Martin in self-defense after being attacked by the teen.
The BET coverage of the issue was biased in favor of the young African-American teen and claimed that the shooting was racially motivated, that Trayvon was suspected of wrongdoing and subsequently shot simply because of this race. The programming continuously showed coverage of Trayvon’s parents and their national campaign to proclaim their son’s complete innocence in the court of public opinion.
The show also included several taped interviews conducted by former newscaster Emmett Miller with their lawyer, and even celebrity actor Jamie Foxx who showed their support of the prosecution and belief in the guilt of George Zimmerman. The brief interview with Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara seemed to be extremely edited as to not include any substantial support of Zimmerman’s actions that night and even included questioning of Zimmerman’s credibility in his own defense.
This special serves to perfectly represent exactly what the coverage of this issue should not be. Coverage should not be geared toward convincing the public of the guilt or innocence of one side or the other prior to the trial being held. This only contributes to the inability of the case to find unbiased jurors to fairly decide the fate of George Zimmerman and causes the public to jump to conclusions about what side they support while only being exposed to very few concrete facts in the case.
If coverage of the issue must continue in the media, it should be presented in as unbiased a manner as possible. Instead of showing gratuitous coverage of supporters of Martin with very little coverage of the other side of the issue, as the BET special did, the media needs to present the facts of the case along with any pertinent developments in the case and then to step back and allow the public to decide their opinions on the case for themselves as the trial progresses. This sentiment also should apply to people who may support Zimmerman. References that might imply either side’s guilt or innocence should be tabled in the media which will allow the facts in the case to speak for themselves.