For the past month or so, the nation has witnessed the ongoing events in Baltimore, Maryland. Although most protests have been peaceful, when violence did occur in Baltimore, it became the main focus of most news networks; images of the burning CVS and footage of Freddie Gray have been widely circulated.
This all began April 12, when 25-year-old Freddie Gray was apprehended by police officers without force or incident, according to the police statement of charges. Later that day, he was hospitalized and, after being in a coma for a week, Gray died on April 19. Reports emerged that Gray had requested medical attention and that his spine was partially severed.
Gray’s death sparked weeks of demonstrations. On April 24, the Baltimore police acknowledged the mistakes that led to Gray’s death. Several days later, the state’s attorney would rule Gray’s death a homicide, and six officers in connection with the case would be faced with charges including second degree murder, second degree assault and manslaughter.
Although these charges were intended to placate the people of Baltimore, protests and riots continued for weeks to come. While large media outlets heavily covered the violent demonstrations in Baltimore, they readily brushed over coverage of the peaceful protests and marches.
This type of media misrepresentation however only feeds into the problem. The media reports on the “what” rather than the “why” and in doing so only perpetuate the stigmatization of protesters, violent or not.
This is obviously not to suggest that media doesn’t report on issues such as police brutality. Yet when the media does report on these issues the tendency is to focus on individual instances which neglects the larger story: the systemic and institutionalized racial tensions within the United States.
Understanding that the news and media are things that are constructed rather than things of absolute truth is critical when dealing with intense issues. The first step to changing the media for the better is to begin to question it and criticize it. To receive a higher level of journalistic integrity, the people must demand it.