HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The newsonomics of MLB’s pioneering mobile experience
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
July 17, 2012, 12:28 p.m.
Reporting & Production
buffalo-news

From Nieman Reports: After the shouting, bridging the divide

Incoming New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan shares lessons learned in her controversial handling of a high-profile crime story.

Editor’s Note: Our colleagues upstairs at Nieman Reports are out with their Summer 2012 issue, “Truth in the Age of Social Media,” which focuses on issues like verification, crowdsourcing, and citizen journalism. We’ve been giving you a glimpse at some of their stories, but make sure to read the issue in full. In this piece, Buffalo News Editor Margaret Sullivan — who was announced Monday as The New York Times’ new public editor — reflects on victims in the media, and the tension between journalistic sensitivity and a desire to be provocative.

As I watched media coverage of the racially charged shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida earlier this year, I found myself thinking about sensitivity and respect. Those issues were big ones for me and The Buffalo News in New York two summers ago.

As Geraldo Rivera of Fox News declared that black teens should avoid wearing hooded sweatshirts and some spectators gleefully welcomed revelations about Martin’s less-then-angelic past behavior, all of the questions came flooding back. How can we best avoid blaming the victim? Doesn’t the public have the right to know all the facts, not just the ones that support a particular point of view? How do placement and emphasis (in newspaper terms, a front-page headline versus three paragraphs at the end of a story) figure into media decision-making? How does the desire to be provocative (consider Rivera’s March 22 tweet: “His hoodie killed Trayvon Martin as surely as George Zimmerman”) weigh against responsible commentary and reporting?

As race-oriented stories continue to emerge—and they surely will—those questions deserve to be thought about and talked about in newsrooms. And we can do that most effectively if we broaden the base of those in our conversations, recognizing that diversity is more than numbers; it’s the power of what happens when different voices are truly heard. This reality was brought home to me in the aftermath of the furor that erupted in Buffalo’s black community over a story the News published in August 2010.

The bloodiest crime in the city’s recent history began as a wedding party. Actually, it was a year-after-the-wedding party for a Buffalo couple who had moved to Texas and married there but had come back to celebrate with hometown friends. The setting was City Grill, an upscale restaurant downtown.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     July 17, 2012, 12:28 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The newsonomics of MLB’s pioneering mobile experience
Running a sports league and running a news operation aren’t the same thing. But there are lessons to be learned from baseball’s success in navigating mobile.
Why The New York Times built a tool for crowdsourced time travel
Madison, a new tool that asks readers to help identify ads in the Times archives, is part of a new open source platform for crowdsourcing built by the company’s R&D Lab.
Opening up the archives: JSTOR wants to tie a library to the news
Its new site JSTOR Daily highlights interesting research and offers background and context on current events.
What to read next
1020
tweets
The newsonomics of the millennial moment
The new wave of news startups is aiming at a younger audience. But do legacy media companies have a chance at earning their attention?
803A mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
The two apps were part of the paper’s plan to increase digital subscribers through smaller, targeted offerings. Now, with staff cutbacks on the way, one app is being shuttered and the other is being adjusted.
413The new Vox daily email, explained
The company’s newsletter, Vox Sentences, enters an increasingly crowded inbox. Can concise writing and smart aggregation on the day’s news help expand their audience?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
ESPN
Lens
Foreign Policy
NBC News
Voice Media Group
The Times of London
The Ann Arbor Chronicle
Yahoo
National Review
ABC News
Hechinger Report
PBS