Colorofchange.org is taking the media to task in advance for coverage of the Ferguson grand jury decision, saying the media has contributed to a hostile climate that has led to the death of Michael Brown and others. Brown was the unarmed teen shot by a Ferguson, Mo., policeman.
In an email to reporters Monday, the civil rights group said it was calling for "fair and honest" media coverage, which it suggested African Americans had not been getting.
"Recognition of the dangers posed by a hostile media climate for Black people is crucial at this very important juncture in our nation’s history, the email said.
It suggested that the Ferguson protestors were only exercising their constitutional rights and that the media should help protect those, "rather than contribute to a racist drumbeat against them"
It did not single out any particular journalist or medium, indicating the problem was systemic. "[O]ur media impacts the perceptions of its audience," the group said. "Research shows there are dire consequences when stereotypical images of Black people rule the day; less attention from doctors, harsher sentences from judges, and abusive treatment by police, just to name a few. Rather than feeding into the hostile media climate that contributed to the deaths of Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, and so many others, we should use this opportunity to forge a fair and humanizing media landscape for Black people."
Among the things ColorOChange.org wants journalists to keep in mind is not jumping to label protestors thugs or rioters or criminals, not just focusing on the minority of violent protestors while not paying enough attention to "militarized" police; don't allow talk of "black on black" crime to justify police brutality; provide context for protests by pointing to structural racism and the historic police practices that lead to racial disparities.
The grand jury has reportedly reached a decision, but it has not yet been revealed.
“While we may not agree with all of the contentions made by this group, we certainly do agree with the need for and the responsibility of journalists to cover the news events in Ferguson in a fair and balanced manner,” said Mike Cavender, executive director of the Radio-Television Digital News Assocaition. “At the same time, RTDNA hopes that lessons learned from this past summer’s violence there are remembered and that police agencies, protestors and journalists be allowed to conduct their business in a peaceful and non-confrontational manner. Our website (rtdna.org) has an email hotline link for journalists who may encounter difficulties while covering stories in Ferguson and we will provide assistance to them where we can. “