The St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. has experienced three days of peaceful protest, riots and looting following the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown. As community unrest has continued to simmer, local and national media have grappled with how to cover the socially trending, complex story.
Tracing an arc similar to the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida and other recent cases, the death of Brown, 18, reportedly after an altercation with police, exploded across social media. Individual accounts and videos of protests and police action circulated widely, vying with establishment media coverage. As police and the FBI investigated the events and tried to secure the area, using tear gas and bean-bag pellets and arresting dozens, local stations kept a tight focus on the unfolding events. Authorities, however, appeared determined to limit the influx of media outlets flocking to Ferguson, whose population of about 21,000 is 70% African-American.
KMOV, a CBS-affiliate, has reporters on the ground tweeting live coverage including aerial views of the crowd Tuesday, chanting for "justice." The station was also on the ground all of Monday. Although camera crews were in the thick of the protests during the day, reporters moved blocks away for coverage at night when riot-gear-clad police presence—and the use of tear gas—became heavy. "There hasn't been a moment today that we've stopped monitoring this unprecedented situation," nighttime anchor Sharon Reed said.
A representative for KSDK, an NBC affiliate, declined to comment on coverage, but video on the station's site shows a reporter on the scene after a shoe store looting. They also sent photographers to document a number of events including the riot gear-wearing police officers in Ferguson, protesters in front of the Ferguson Police Department and a protester gathering in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton.
The KTVI-KLPR, a Tribune duopoly affiliated with Fox and the CW, respectively, also had reporters assessing the aftermath at the scenes of looting or riots after the turmoil had eased Tuesday. But the station also sent crews directly into the incidents of looting and live police vs. demonstrators activity. They also mobilized an overnight news team to continue coverage.
National nets were closely monitoring, with CNN and MSNBC devoting particularly extensive coverage Tuesday. Broadcast nets have not, as yet, broken into regularly scheduled programming.