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Public forum on Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman at USF on Thursday



Now that every talking head and media maven has had an opportunity to sound off about the impact of Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it’s time for a more reasoned, informative discussion led by the Tampa Bay area’s top journalism professional group.

That’s my not-so-modest description of what the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists has planned Thursday for its public forum on the legal and media issues raised by the killing of Martin and the failed prosecution of Zimmerman.

The free event, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the University of South Florida’s Patel Center for Global Solutions in Tampa, features a panel of experts across legal and journalism fields and provides lots of opportunity for the pulbic to comment and ask questions. It’s open to anyone who would like to attend.

Full disclosure: I’ll be moderating the panel, which will also feature Dr. Carolyn Collins, president of the Hillsborough County NAACP; Alec Hall, a federal public defender; Joe Caimino, a criminal defense attorney and the only Tampa resident on Gov. Rick Scott’s stand your ground task force; and Ben Montgomery, a Tampa Bay Times reporter who covered the case.

Anyone who has attended TBABJ public forums before, knows that we organize these events to serve as a place for the community to come together and have much-needed discussions. We’re going to encourage representatives from every media outlet in town to stop by, and we’ll be happy to include anyone from those news outlets in the discussion so the community can hear from them, as well.

Here's a summary of the case from a story I wrote for the Poynter Institute: "Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot dead by George Zimmerman on Feb. 26, 2012 while walking to an apartment he was visiting -- his father's girlfriend's residence -- at a subdivision in Sanford, Fla.

As the world learned later, Martin was unarmed, holding a bag of Skittles and a container of iced tea after a trip to a nearby convenience store. Zimmerman was a volunteer neighborhood watch captain who killed the youth with a gun he was legally licensed to carry after they got in a fight; the state’s Stand Your Ground law provided possible justification for using lethal force if he felt his life was in jeopardy."

Zimmerman's acquittal in July fueled a flood of analysis; some people said it proved Martin started the fight which ended with his death, others said it proved that state laws make it too easy to target and kill young men of color. We'll probe those notions and much more during our discussion.

The event is co-sponsored by the George Edgecomb Bar Association, and is designed to cut through a lot of misinformation and confusion surrounding the impact of Zimmerman’s trial, his acquittal and the protests which have followed.

These are all issues touched on in my book, Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation; I’ve also written about media coverage of Martin and Zimmerman in a chapter for a new book on journalism ethics in the digital age to be published later this year. Developed by The Poynter Institute, it’s called The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century (SAGE/CQ Press, 2013). 

Directions to the Patel Center: Take Fowler to USF’s Bull Run Drive (directly across from MOSI). Make the first left onto USF Alumni Drive and another left onto Maple Drive. You will be facing the Patel Center. Parking for the evening is free.

Click here for more information on the panel and the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists, a vibrant chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 5:10pm]


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