National news media attention to Trayvon Martin death explodes as feds investigate
Nearly a month after a self-appointed Neighborhood Watch guard shot an unarmed 17-year-old African American boy to death, the national news media is beginning to train it's lens on the Trayvon Martin case, asking questions about racial bias and Florida's stand your ground law.
Martin, who was visiting his father in Sanford, Fla., was walking back to his dad's fiance's residence when he was followed by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman. Minutes later, the boy was shot dead; his parents have complained that police have been slow to release information on the case, fearing an attempt to help Zimmerman, who has not been arrested.
Coverage of the case seemed to explode over the weekend, following release of audio from 911 calls showing that Zimmerman followed Martin after the police dispatcher told him "we don't need you to do that." Zimmerman also identified Martin's race, though police had said publicly he didn't know the teen's ethnicity when the confrontation occurred.
Expect those stories to only increase, as the FBI and Justice Department announced plans last night to investigate the killing.
The chilling tapes of 911 calls from other people in the gated community reveal someone screaming, then a gunshot and silence. Zimmerman has said he was the one who was screaming, but other residents in the area have expressed doubts about that explanation.
Cable TV news picked up the story over the weekend and on Monday, as MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry talked about the incident and MSNBC anchor Al Sharpton interviewed Martin's father and the family's attorney on his PoliticsNation show. CNN's Anderson Cooper also interviewed the father and lawyer Monday, later discussing the case with two legal analysts. And Sharpton announced plans to attend a protest Thursday regarding the case.
Fox News aired a segment Monday wondering if "anti-gun advocates" would use the incident to go after the National Rifle Association. And New York magazine has an interesting piece tracking how big print national news outlets have zeroed in on the story, including USA Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times.
The Miami Herald offered a compelling piece on the issue, examining Zimmerman's history of calling 911 -- 46 times over the past 11 years -- painting a portrait of a vigilant guy who thwarted some crimes but also was accused of focusing on black people. And ABC News today posted a story quoting a teen girl who says she was on the telephone with Martin seconds before he was shot dead, saying Zimmerman confronted the boy while he was trying to run away from him.
Legal experts have said that Zimmerman may never be charged with a crime due to Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows citizens to respond with deadly force to protect themselves anywhere. The Tampa Bay Times published a compelling story on the law back in 2010, noting that in 2009, twice a week someone's killing was ruled warranted using the law.
But the public pressure is increasing, as even celebrities such as Cher and Wyclef Jean sent messages on Twitter Monday:
cher: We MUST NOT FORGET TRAVOR MARTI !This Beautiful Young man was MURDERED IN FLA. & his killer was SET FREE! (later, the singer apologized for spelling the teen's name wrong.)
wyclef: this is real Trayvon martin was only 17 years old! if we let this slide they will keep killin 17 year olds your kid will b next!