“Basic Mistakes” Cited In Media Coverage Of Shootings, Police Brutality


In a broad review of media coverage this year, the Columbia Journalism Review includes nominations in criminal justice reporting for both its best and worst categories. “Breaking coverage after mass shootings and police brutality” was cited for poor reporting. Granting that these topics are difficult “for national journalists parachuting in,” the review concludes that “media coverage hasn't seemed to improve over time.” Mistakes are basic, including misidentifying suspects, sticking too closely to one side's account of events, unfairly describing backgrounds of people involved, misreporting violence by protesters, and others. The review says, “The onus is on journalists to ensure that national attention doesn't overwhelm their better editorial judgment. Unfortunately for all of us, we'll no doubt get another chance.”

Getting some praise from the review are journalists at Roanoke, Va.’s WDBJ. After two of their colleagues were murdered on air August 26, the station continued to report the story well. “The violence was particularly heartbreaking given that the perpetrator was a disgruntled former employee—and that victims Alison Parker and Adam Ward were dating and engaged to other colleagues at the station,” says the review. “Such resilience requires no small amount of courage, and it's worthy of no small amount of admiration.”

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