Flames engulf local liquor stores and pharmacies. Stolen clothing leaves stores to be thrown in trunks of cars. White bystanders are beaten to the ground.
These were just a few horrific pictures the media painted for society during the Baltimore riots. The distorted and uncovered stories led people to fear Baltimore and its locals.
Towson University hosted a panel of respected journalists in “Reporting Unrest: Journalism’s Role in Social Justice Movements”, to discuss how the media covers social justice movements. Special guests included Mark Puente, Baltimore Sun reporter, Kenneth Burns, WYPR reporter, Kwame Rose, Black EXCELLence founder, and Jared Ball, Morgan State University Professor.
Kwame is a Baltimore local, and is disgusted with how the media portrayed his home-town during this crucial movement. “I’m from Baltimore, hanging in the same hood, seeing people doing nothing outside is normal for me,” Kwame began. “Only thing that wasn’t normal was white people in black people’s faces with cameras.”
The media was not reporting full accounts of what was happening. News stations would cover Baltimore police spraying looters with pepper spray, but not shooting innocent bystanders with rubber bullets.
A Towson University mass communications student Tori Wolfgang was intrigued by the event and the arguments the panelists made. “I couldn’t imagine that the media would not accurately cover such an important and historical social justice movement,” said Wolfgang. “That’ll be a reason why white supremacy will rule, and social inequality continues to occur.”
Kwame and Puente specifically argued about the Baltimore Sun, a local newspaper in the heart of the city, and how it was criminalizing its own citizens. Baltimore is 65 percent Black, yet their own newspaper is trying to reach a White audience.
Puente disagreed, and argued he is an investigative reporter, not a beat reporter.
But what does it take for these issues to be covered? Previous Black arrests and deaths have warranted somewhat of an uprising, but Freddie Gray’s death was the last straw.
Then when these riots break out, that is when the story becomes newsworthy. People ignore the inequality these people unfortunately face every day of their lives.
Even during Freddie Gray’s funeral, the media was covering the government and police actions, rather than the sad day for family and friends.
Editors may just be the true problem, they are the ones who take the reporters story and twist it to send a bias message to sell headlines.