Why did the national news media do late and imcomplete coverage of the racial issues sourrounding the beating of a white high school student by blacks in December 2006? The American Journalism Review takes a close look at the case. One reason for the late coverage is that few media have reporters assigned to cover race. Another is that several news organizations were directed to the story by Alan Bean of Friends of Justice, a group that aims “to create media scandals around questionable prosecutions as they unfold.” Bean clearly believes that the prosecutions of the blacks, initially for attempted murder, were unjustified.
The Journalism Review notes that many news reports did not include information on the criminal record of the prime defendant and the extent of the victim’s injuries. Kansas City Star columnist said that too many in the national media relied on Bean’s account. Concludes Whitlock: “I’m not saying it’s Bean’s fault–that’s unfair to him. If there’s any bad guys in the Jena 6 story it’s the media. We blew this.” Keith Woods of the Poynter Institute says the national media is “subject to cast things inaccurately by not delving down deeply enough into individual details of the story.”