How Justice Is Sought For Trayvon Martin In The Media
1 year ago
Parents, protestors harness multiplatform media to seek justice for slain teen
(NOTE: Updated to include a timeline of mainstream coverage, corrects spellings.)
It’s likely that the minds responsible for each forward leap in technology and media did not sit down at a drafting table with the understanding that their inventions would help broadcast grotesque crimes and injustices.
Not long ago, YouTube hosted cellphone video footage of a handcuffed Oscar Grant, as he is shot in the back by a transit cop in Oakland, Calif. UStream allowed an audience to watch live, as cries to halt the execution of Troy Davis are ignored in Jackson, Ga. And a combination of several media platforms has broadcast to millions the final pleas for help from Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen who is posthumously redefining the way citizens demand justice.
When the truth was and is told, those citizens needn’t worry if the details were compelling enough. In Martin’s case, those who pressed “play” on clips of the 911 calls were horrified into action.
There’s no dispute that local media outlets were the first to report the Feb. 26 shooting death of Martin by 28-year-old George Zimmerman. He’s described as the volunteer neighborhood watch captain, who pursued the 17-year-old Martin against the advisement of a Sanford, Fla. police dispatcher.
As Poynter’s Kimberly McBride reported last Friday, the first story in the Martin case was a small brief in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper on Feb. 27. (Sanford is a suburb of Orlando.) That brief was followed by a short story the next day. Eleven days passed before the first of the most chilling details were picked up by news wires. Soon after, bloggers caught wind of it. A petition for Zimmerman's arrest was created on Change.org and observers flooded social media websites with the stories and the petition, McBride wrote.
Martin was discovered lifeless, bearing nothing more than his cellphone, a beverage and the package of Skittles. Those details wouldn’t keep national attention at bay.
[ALSO READ: What About Zimmerman's Gun?]
“The implications were already insane,” said Trymaine Lee, a senior Huffington Post reporter, who has been credited with helping Martin’s story go from local to viral. Lee wrote his first story from New York on March 8, the day Martin’s parents began address the media.
“(He was) an unarmed teenager. He was a good kid. (He had) candy in his pocket. It had all the elements there,” Lee said.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist flew from New York to Orlando on Feb. 15 to gather more of the story on the ground, arriving just one day before officials released 911 tape recordings. On them, Zimmerman makes statements, which cast serious doubts on his claim that he shot Martin in self-defense.
Sanford police officials applied a controversial policy, know as the “Stand Your Ground” law, allowing Zimmerman to walk away a free man, after minimal questioning.
“The picture was undeniable," Lee said. “I think that’s what really tipped the scales. Each step along the way, it just kept building and building until the picture was illuminated.”
Attorneys for the Martin family echoed Lee’s sentiment.
“After the release of the 911 tapes, we definitely saw a turning point, in terms of the national coverage,” said Jamine Rand, one of the primary attorneys assisting Benjamin Crump as the Martin family seeks Zimmerman’s arrest.