Over the past couple of weeks, the dominant media have displayed a classic example of their double standard in deciding which police shootings are worthy of coverage and which are less so. The networks that repeatedly hype stories that give the wrong impression that nearly all police shooting victims are black -- even though about 75 percent are either white or Hispanic -- recently gave substantial attention to the trial of a white female police officer who killed an innocent unarmed black man, Botham Jean.
But, by contrast, last April, the same networks barely touched the trial of a black male police officer who killed an innocent unarmed white woman, Justine Damond, under circumstances that were just as sensational and tragic. And, in both cases, the defendant was found guilty and given a similar sentence.
After the trial for former Dallas cop Amber Guyger began on Monday, September 23, as the proceedings spanned across 10 days, all three of the broadcast evening newscasts updated viewers in a majority of their shows, usually with full reports, with ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News covering it six times, and the NBC Nightly News seven times. All three shows even led with the trial on the day of the verdict, in spite of all the impeachment news.
By contrast, when former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was tried in April, even though it lasted 22 days from April 9 to April 30, all three broadcast evening newscasts waited until the very last day to include the story as they covered the verdict, each making it the number three story of the night with full reports. When sentencing was done more than a month later on June 7, all three updated viewers with full reports.
As for the three broadcast morning news shows, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today show ignored the Noor trial totally, and CBS This Morning waited until April 30 and May 1 to run a full story each of those two days. On the morning after the verdict, CBS Ths Morning and the Today show both led with the Guyger story, and Good Morning America also gave it a full report..
And on cable news, CNN buried all its coverage of the Noor trial in the wee hours between midnight and 6:00 a.m. on May 1 after the trial was over. According to a Nexis search, a brief aired each hour except, during the 3:00 a.m. hour, CNN national correspondent Scott McLean delivered a full report -- which shows someone was actually assigned to the story even though CNN otherwise did not use any of his work during the daytime or primetime hours.
Between September 3, when jury selection began, and October 2 at noon (before the famous hug sparked additional interest), various CNN shows between 6:00 a.m. and Midnight covered the story 17 times, in total for more than 48 minutes. In that same period, CNN's flagship morning show, New Day, carried the story on five different days, totaling more than 24 minutes. CNN weekend anchor Fredricka Whitfield ran a six-minute segment on September 7 to discuss jury selection before the trial even began.
For the primetime MSNBC shows that are in Nexis, there is no sign that any of them carried either trial, but an examination of daytime shows that aired within 24 hours of each verdict finds that MSNBC covered the Guyger verdict on five different shows, with Craig Melvin, Andrea Mitchell, Ali Velshi, Ari Melber and Hallie Jackson including it on their regular shows.
On October 1, MSNBC's Melber played up the race angle more than the other networks as he misleadingly claimed that minorities are disproportionately targeted by police violence as he spoke with California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters:
The case has ignited much debate over race and the criminal justice system. And as you know, Congresswoman, the tendency and the statistics where officers are more likely to use force and deadly force against minorities. Your reaction to this which, viewers will understand, is a rarity -- a murder conviction for an officer.
But the statistics, in fact, do not support his suggestion of widespread racial discrimination by police officers. The Washington Post finds every year that African American suspects only make up around 25 percent of police shooting victims, out of nearly 1,000 police shootings a year total.
As for the Mohamed Noor case, there was no sign of MSNBC coverage within 24 hours after the verdict was handed down April 30. MSNBC has generally not spent much time on police shootings since the Stephon Clark case in March 2018.
Even Fox News Channel, which typically does not cover such police shootings, gave substantially more attention to the Guyger trial than the Noor case, but at least the network did give the Noor trial more attention than CNN or MSNBC.. Between the beginning of jury selection on April 2 through May 1, and also including coverage of the June 7 sentencing, Fox News Channel devoted more than eight and a half minutes to the Noor trial.
Between September 3, when jury selection began, and October 2 at noon (before the courtroom hug happened) Fox News Channel ran more than 56 minutes devoted to the Guyger trial. Fox's coverage was mostly concentrated on the daytime shows America's Newsroom and, on weekends, America's News Headquarters, which accounted for more than 30 minutes.