How the media frames a story

As I sit here watching the morning news, I can only shake my head over the events that have been happening in Charlotte. I’m not going to comment on whether or not the police were justified in shooting Keith Lamont Scott. Why I’m withholding comment is simple: I want to see the bodycam videos of the incident. When I do, I will be able to make a more informed opinion than I can now. However, that doesn’t prevent me from commenting on the events from last night and the media coverage of it.

The first thing that captured my attention in the coverage of the story was the opening soundbite by one of those taking part in the protest that last night’s events had been a “peaceful” protest. Yes, it might have started out that way but it was not how it ended. A peaceful protest does not have one protester shooting another. A peaceful protest does not have windows smashed and stores looted. A peaceful protest is, well, peaceful.

What really had me shaking my head and wondering how the reporter managed to say her lines with a straight face was when she described an upcoming piece of video where, according to her, another reporter was knocked down by a protester fleeing the tear gas. The only problem is the video didn’t back up what she said. The camera was focused on the reporter in question and, behind him, one person passed and then another came into the shot and very calmly came up and “bumped” him hard enough to take him down. There was plenty of room to go around the reporter. It wasn’t as if the immediate area was crowded. Nope. This was a case that, at least from that particular clip, showed one person intentionally running into and knocking down another. Yet that would not fit the narrative the reporter telling the story wanted, so she added facts (and I’m using that term loosely) to make it seem like things were something they weren’t.

Does this mean I think the protests should stop?

No. One of the strengths of this country is that we have the right to assemble and the right of free speech. However, neither of those rights translate into the “right to pillage and plunder” which is what happened in Charlotte last night. It is what has happened in other cities as well. When businesses are looted, when private property is destroyed, that is no longer protesting. That is criminal activity.

I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. If you think I, along with thousands of others, didn’t have concerns and second thoughts when a protest was planned for Downtown Dallas just weeks after the ambush of our police officers during another protest, you’re wrong. However, I applaud the mayor and police chief, as well as their advisers and the organizers of the protest march for making sure nothing happened. It was a peaceful protest.

Note the word peaceful.

It still managed to bring attention to the concern of the organizers on the number of Black lives lost in encounters with police, whether it be by shooting or something else. It also brought attention to the number of police officers who are injured or killed when they are attacked. It brought about a dialog about what we need to do down here to stop both from happening again.

Dialog — something that has to happen before progress can be made.

Dialog — something that won’t happen when businesses have to worry about whether they will have windows and inventory the morning after a protest march.

Dialog — something that won’t happen when businesses are burned out simply because they happened to be located along the protest route.

Dialog — something that has to happen between all sides, including local businesses and government and community leaders.

As much as I dislike seeing anyone not standing during our National Anthem, it is the right of each and every one of us to choose whether we honor the nation by standing or not. It is something so many men and women in the military have given their lives for. Unfortunately, instead of facilitating the dialog, the media chooses to try to stir the pot with their coverage. They find the most inciting instead of insightful soundbites possible in their coverage and that is what plays.

It reminds me of when I was growing up. One of the local stations was known for what could only be called muckraking, yellow journalism at its finest. Beyond that, every Friday and Saturday night you could count on them finding the bloodiest murder scene or wreck to cover. Their weatherman smiled gleefully whenever discussing storms that did major damage. He all but danced with joy when a tornado moved through a community. Why? Because all that made for ratings and ratings meant they could charge more for advertising.

The problem was, people in the area started believing the DFW area was as bad as they were reporting. Even when the other stations reported on lowering crime stats, this one station kept fanning the flames. Finally, they were caught reusing footage — only a couple of times that I can recall — and the weatherman moved on. New management came in and slowly the emphasis went from the very worst to actually showing the occasional good news story. As the narrative changed, so did the way a number of folks looked at the area.

The media framed our outlook and it is trying to do so now, except this time it is on a national level. I’m not sure how we combat it. Actually I am. What I’m not sure is how effective it will be on a large-scale basis. The first thing we have to do is quit taking everything the media says at face value — and yes, there are still all too many people who do just that, especially if the media is hitting their hot buttons. The second thing we have to do is remind ourselves that there are always at least two sides to any story. Instead of rushing to judgment, especially when the two sides we are hearing are diametrically opposed, we need to gather the facts.

Yes, something has to be done to mend the rift in the social fabric of our country. I’m just not sure it can be mended as long as the media is more concerned about framing the news to meet its own narrative.

Another proof of what I’m saying is what is on the news as I write this. ABC came out and said that Trump’s business dealings with Russia over the years can and most likely will seriously impact, with the implication being it will negatively impact, the get tough with Russia stance the U. S. has had of late. While they have never worried about the blind trusts other candidates and politicians have set up over the years, now they have gone out to dig up someone who condemns Trump because how can it be a blind trust when the candidate knows what is in the blind trust? Pardon me, but each and every politician who has ever set up a blind trust has known what holdings were put in it. Remember, before the trust was set up, that person had been handling the businesses or at least getting reports about them. But that doesn’t fit the narrative, so it isn’t mentioned.

Because of the media and its desire to direct and make the news instead of simply reporting on it, the burden falls on us to discover what the facts are. No longer can we simply rely on the national and local news as reported by the mainstream media for information. We have to look to other sources and, gasp, we have to think. It is our responsibility to be an informed electorate and an informed citizenry.


  1. “I’m not going to comment…”

    I salute you. You have just displayed what too many people will not – patience. (and no small amount of good sense.)

    I have been avoiding social media (baring certain blogs) for the past few days because I am tired of the spectacle. I’ve had to bite my tongue hard enough to leave divots and nearly draw blood. I want to respect my friends’ right to free speech at the same time I want to beat them upside the head yelling that we don’t know what happened yet – in any of the recent events. It is too soon. I want to shout at them to stop playing the trial by media game.

    I put a large part of the blame on the Media. If they would just stop with the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality I do believe that part of the tension will die down. ((this could quickly turn into a full on rant, but I’m going to bite my tongue again and stop here.))

    You are spot on about the News. The days of Walter Cronkite are long gone. And it does behoove us to learn to read and to think. But we also have to be careful of some so-called news sites. Several out there are just as bias as the National news, if not more so. I’ve lost count of the times I have busted a fb post by digging around and finding the “small” detail that were left out of the inflammatory article shared by a friend. (a problem shared by friends on both sides of the political aisle.)

    1. Wyldcat, you hit it exactly. This has become spectacle. The media are the hawkers and the carnival barkers, each one trying to outdo the other. Ratings and advertising dollars are more important than presenting the facts in an unbiased way — hell, than even presenting both sides of the story. What those reaping the benefits of media coverage don’t understand is that it will end, sooner for individuals than for “issues” but it will end and the media will move on to something else. That is now the nature of the beast.

  2. The first thing that captured my attention in the coverage of the story was the opening soundbite by one of those taking part in the protest that last night’s events had been a “peaceful” protest. Yes, it might have started out that way but it was not how it ended. A peaceful protest does not have one protester shooting another. A peaceful protest does not have windows smashed and stores looted. A peaceful protest is, well, peaceful.

    It’s magical thinking. They can commit any number of violent felonies, loot and steal, do whatever they want, but if they say the magical incantation ‘peaceful protest” then that will make it so.

    And the media lets them get away with it.

    1. Yep. We had an example of that last night here in Dallas. There was a protest, not very large only a hundred or two. It was peaceful. But middle of the evening, one of the local stations sent out an alert that “arrests were imminent”. What they didn’t say was that some of the protesters had decided to kneel down in the middle of an intersection and that they moved within just a very few minutes when the officers on duty asked them to. There was no violence. No pushing and shoving and, in all honesty, very few verbal confrontations when you consider what happened here just a couple of months ago. But that didn’t fit the narrative of getting people to go instantly to the news app.

  3. There is another small thing one can do about how the media {and others} change reality. Go out of your way at times to bust narratives.

    In a positive way, and with facts that the other party can verify.

    Even one on one, in a conversational tone. And yes, if you’re going to bust a narrative, you need to be able to back it up and prove it. But, as more and more people realize the media is creating the news, the more that will dig deeper to find out the “real truth”.

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