CNN had 6.2 million viewers while last week’s announcement of the grand jury decision on the Ferguson shooting was being reported. CNN’s Brian Stelter said that was more than any moment after Hurricane Katrina or after the Boston Marathon bombings. Some critics, such as conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. She tweeted, “If the media pulled back half of the protesters would disperse and go home. Ferguson would be more peaceful.” Stelter, on his “Reliable Sources” program, asked whether the media fanned the flames in Ferguson.
Frank Absher of the St. Louis Media History Foundation said, “While a lot of people are quick to criticize and say the media caused this by their very presence, at the same time, if the media had not covered it, they’d have been doing an extreme disservice.” Absher also said national media made “very serious” factual errors in Ferguson reporting. Another commentator, former CNN anchor Frank Sesno, now at the George Washington University School of Media Affairs, said, “Media people don’t sit around in editorial meetings … saying, ‘we hope there’s violence so that it drives the ratings up.’ But you know that something is going to come along and you know that that is going to drive the audience.” He added, “There is a major story. There is a major issue. And you got to cover it, and then it’s a separate subject as to what the consequences of that are.”