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The George Zimmerman ‘not guilty’ verdict: Don’t blame the media

July 14, 2013

By Erik Wemple

Just last week, newly christened Fox News media-analyst Howard Kurtz broke down the evolution of the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case with colleague Bret Baier. The topic was the same one that everyone had been chewing on, namely the great deal of coverage accorded to the trial.

Here’s part of the discussion:

BAIER: Do you think this trial would have gotten as much coverage from the beginning had a lot of the activists not really got into the game in the beginning?

KURTZ: Bret, I don’t think even it ever would have become a national story. It never would have been on the radar. It was the issue of race and the activists descending on Sanford, Florida that catapulted this. And really, you know, there seems to be this hunger in cable news land for the — what I call a soap opera spectacle. Before this, there was the Jody Arias trial. Before that, it was the Amanda Knox trial.
Variations on this strain of thought have circulated in the media in advanced of the widely expected not-guilty verdict announced on Saturday night. On “Fox & Friends” this week, Geraldo Rivera, for instance, held the Rev. Al Sharpton of MSNBC responsible for serving as a “catalyst” for the prosecution of George Zimmerman. On the Fox News show “The Five,” co-host Greg Gutfeld declared, “the media right now is on trial for those first three to four months after this crime occurred, of all of the race-based content they ran with, without facts, but emotion, because it creates ratings.”

Get used to this line of reasoning, for it’s likely to spill into the public via self-satisfied, I-told-you-so professions in newspapers and TV monologues in the coming weeks. Hell, it may not subside till Labor Day.

Don’t believe a word of it, however.

Indeed the media committed atrocities in covering the encounter between Zimmerman and Martin. Most notably, NBC News mal-edited a police audiotape that portrayed Zimmerman as an out-and-out racial profiler.

Yet to posit that the media and activists orchestrated a national issue gives too little credit to the nation. Simply put, people across the country were horrified that a 17-year-old kid walking through a neighborhood with candy and a soft drink could have ended up shot to death. They didn’t need the media to tell them to get out and demand Zimmerman’s arrest, or simply to express solidarity with the victim. Read the rest of the story in the Washington Post.

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