Technology Quickens Gut-Punches of Grief

Dear Media: ‘I Don’t Want to Keep Reliving This Moment’

Why Black-on-Black Crime Isn’t the Same

‘Civil War’ Front Page ‘Shockingly Irresponsible’

Fatal Shooting of Suicidal Latino Questioned

LSU Wants to Bring Alton Sterling Killing to School

Short Takes

Dallas police take cover on Thursday as a sniper terrifies the downtown area. (Credit: WFAA-TV)

Dallas police take cover on Thursday as a sniper terrifies the downtown area. (Credit: WFAA-TV, Dallas)

Technology Quickens Gut-Punches of Grief

It’s possible that contemporary America has seen three days as stunning, as violent and as racially charged as those that ended this week, but the nation certainly did not have the technology then to bring so much to the public so swiftly.

Cellphone videos. Live transmissions via social media. 24-hour news cycles. For good measure, a bomb delivered by a police robot.

Amid it all, the news media had the task of balancing a story that combined racial profiling, homicide, gun violence, politics, personal grief and the weight of the nation’s racial history simultaneously — and to get it right the first time.

They had to balance the ongoing news of the deaths of blacks in police custody with the rarer news of the killing of white police officers, keeping both front and center.

In a single week, we have seen the spectacle of two black men killed by police and five police officers gunned down at a rally that was being held in response to those deaths,” Jelani Cobb wrote Friday morning for the New Yorker.

“On Thursday, President Obama spoke of the incidents in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, saying, ‘When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts, and that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue, not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we all should care about.’

“Less than twenty-four hours later, he released a statement calling the shooting of eleven police in Dallas a ‘vicious, despicable, calculated attack upon law enforcement.’ What began as a lethargic return to work following a holiday has devolved into an American crucible.

“The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — captured on video and widely seen and shared — effectively turned the public into a national pool of eyewitnesses. Millions saw Sterling, supine in a parking lot, as multiple shots were fired into his body. As many saw a Facebook Live feed in which Diamond Reynolds, maintaining extraordinary composure, described the events leading to her boyfriend’s death — all while an agitated officer held her at gunpoint. Those deaths, coming in such close proximity, inspired protests across the country. . . .”

In the New York Times Friday, Timothy Williams and Michael Wines tried to put the events in context:

Since the Thursday night sniper attack the national conversation has swung between bitterness and despair over seemingly unbridgeable gulfs in society. The New York Post’s front page blared ‘CIVIL WAR.’ The Drudge Report warned in a headline that ‘Black Lives Kill.’ Some Minnesota protesters on Thursday night chanted, ‘Kill the police.’

“Police officers and sociologists alike say that racial tension is approaching a point last seen during the street riots that swept urban American in the late 1960s when disturbances erupted in places like the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts and Detroit and Newark, during summers of deep discontent. . . .”

Every gripping story needs a villain, and the slain sniper suspect, 25-year-old Micah Johnson, a black Army veteran who had served in Afghanistan, was unambiguously assigned that role.

The police officers were “the latest victims of hate,” “CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley said. Johnson was one who carried “this kind of hate,” said “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt. It took Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, who writes in the Daily News of New York, to suggest that while Johnson was clearly wrong, he was more than a stereotype.

The audience was hungry for information. “The cable news networks drew huge numbers last night due to coverage of the national tragedies,” TVNewser reported on Friday. The evening news anchors were on the scene in Dallas, with CBS and NBC extending their newscasts to an hour. ABC added coverage on other programs, including a week-long series on “Nightline.”

The perils and allure of live television was evident as Fox’s Megyn Kelly moderated a discussion last night on the Minnesota and Louisiana police shootings,” James Warren wrote Friday for the Poynter Institute.

“As they were chatting, live video from a Dallas protest raised the initial possibility that a police officer was shot and lying on the ground. ‘It’s not clear to me what we’re seeing,’ Kelly said. ‘That officer is not moving. Ah, I mean, look, we’re not going to show dead cops or dead bodies or hurt cops or hurt bodies or hurt protesters. We don’t know what we’re seeing…this is the state of America today.’ It’s also the state of American media.

“Her discretion didn’t last too long during a long night in which one would learn much later that five officers were killed. Fox quickly returned to the same protest, with Kelly briefly stepping aside as the network took the live feed from its affiliate, KDFW, in Dallas. . . .”

Mark Hughes was a victim of that live, instantaneous coverage, where there is no room for gatekeepers. “Amid the confusion in the immediate aftermath of the deadly attack that left at least five officers dead, the Dallas Police tweeted the picture of a man carrying a rifle and called him a suspect,” Chris White and Rachel Stockman wrote Friday for

“Around the same time at a [televised] press conference on Thursday night Dallas Police Chief David Brown also referred to the man as a ‘person of interest’. Within about an hour of the release of the photo, additional footage surfaced that appears to exonerate the man of any involvement in the attacks. A tweet from police later confirmed that.

“Now, that man’s attorneys are speaking out and criticizing the Dallas Police Department for rushing to judgment. Understandably, he is upset that his public image has been linked to such a heinous event. The interesting legal question is: can he sue for defamation or anything else? And would he have a case? . . .” White and Stockman concluded that to be unlikely.

Michael Campbell Jr., lawyer for  the short-lived “person of interest,” told Journal-isms by telephone that he blamed the police, not the news media for the damage to his brother’s reputation. Hughes’ brother, Cory, found a television crew on the street in Dallas and protested his brother’s innocence on live television.

Trickier for the media was balancing sympathy for the black victims of the Minnesota and Louisiana police, which dominated the first portion of the story’s cycle, with that of the white police officers in Texas, which dominated the second.

Jemilah Lemieux wrote Friday for Ebony, “When a deranged man came from Baltimore to Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn (an area known for the abusive practices of local law enforcement) and ambushed two police officers last year, there was an immediate response of ‘See, both sides are suffering!’

“But while those murders, like the ones in Texas last night, were totally unjustified and heartbreaking, it is unreasonable to suggest that police face the same danger at the hands of civilians that civilians face at their hands. Were that the case, considering the number of weapons in Black communities across this country, we probably would have seen more of these horrible killings. . . .”

Kevin Benz, former chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Association, issued a reminder to journalists: “The horrific shootings in Dallas call for careful and calculated coverage from journalists — again. Journalists must keep in mind that there is clear evidence that coverage of mass shootings has a ‘contagion effect,’ encouraging copy-cat violence . . .  As polarized as this country has become and as hot as this topic now is, the journalist’s tone and the words they use are more important than ever. Poor reporting can have devastating consequences. . . .”

Tracie Powell added more for under the headline, “Where do journalists go from here? Context. Context. Context.”

“Seek truth and report it. . . .

“Avoid hyperbole. . . .

“Don’t inflame. . . .

“Don’t jump the gun. . . .

“Watch your tweets. . . .

“Be compassionate, yet objective. . . .

“Now is not the time to retreat. . . .

“It’s time to listen. . . .

“Last, but not least, take care of yourself. . . .”

Diamond Reynolds, girlfriend of the slain Philando Castile.

Diamond Reynolds, girlfriend of the slain Philando Castile.

Dear Media: ‘I Don’t Want to Keep Reliving This Moment’

The girlfriend of the Minnesota man shot and killed Wednesday by a police officer during a traffic stop has been fielding plenty of questions since the incident. Now Diamond Reynolds just wants some space to mourn,” Alana Horowitz Satlin reported Friday for the Huffington Post.

“After CNN’s Chris Cuomo repeatedly pressed her for information about Philando Castile’s shooting, which Reynolds broadcast on Facebook Live, she shot back:

“ ‘I’m grieving the loss of a loved one, of a best friend, of a role model, and father figure to my child,’ she said. ‘You guys constantly keep asking me all of these disturbing questions, and I’ve already made my statement. I don’t want to keep reliving this moment. ‘ ”

Lezley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, killed by police nearly two years ago in Ferguson, Mo., suggested in a New York Times op-ed piece that Reynolds might not have much choice.

“Death isn’t pretty for anyone, but what these families now face is the horror of seeing their loved one die over and over, in public, in such a violent way,” McSpadden wrote Thursday. “They face the helplessness of having strangers judge their loved one not on who he was or what he meant to his family but on a few seconds of video. . . .”

Why Black-on-Black Crime Isn’t the Same

Critics often ask why African-Americans become so exercised over the handful of killings of young black men by police each year when so many thousands of [them] are killed by other young black men,” Stephen L. Carter, author, law professor at Yale and columnist for Bloomberg View, wrote Thursday.

“Chicagoans didn’t march en masse to protest the 69 shootings in their city over Memorial Day weekend. Federal authorities didn’t rush in to investigate. Don’t those lives matter too?,” Carter wrote in  the Chicago Tribune’s version of the piece.

“It’s a reasonable question and deserves a reasonable answer.

“Let me suggest two explanations. Neither is entirely satisfactory, but each, I think, points in the right direction.

“The first is history. For hundreds of years, the U.S. has in large part been defined by the sharp divide between black and white. I do not speak here of statistics, although they obviously matter. I have in mind, rather, the vividness of a past in which the violence of the dominant race was simply part of the American background. My great-grandmother described the aftermath of the Atlanta riots of 1906, in which white mobs attacked the businesses and homes of the city’s burgeoning black middle class:

” ‘In a moment our sense of security was gone, and we had to realize that we, as colored people, had really no rights as citizens whatsoever. It left us very empty, for we knew in that hour that all for which we had labored and sacrificed belonged not to us but to a ruthless mob.’

“Such events are living memories for many African-Americans, and, for the rest, are handed down, as stories and warnings, from generation to generation.

“The alarming rate of black-on-black crime threatens our concrete security. The killing of blacks by whites, particularly police, touches something more elemental, a sense of fragility within a race still struggling to throw off the burdens, both psychic and economic, of the nation’s tortured history.

“That some of the shootings may turn out to be justified is thus very much beside the point. Each episode constitutes a reminder of how the race itself remains but delicately tethered to the mainstream of American life. The lives of blacks killed by blacks are no less precious than those of blacks killed by whites; but the symbolism, the relationship of image to history, is different. . . .”

Friday's New York Post framed Thursday night’s demonstration in Dallas, a response to two high-profile police shootings of black men killed in recent days, as an “anti-police protest.”

Friday’s hyperbolic New York Post cover framed Thursday night’s demonstration in Dallas, a response to two high-profile police shootings of black men killed in recent days, as an “anti-police protest.”

‘Civil War’ Front Page ‘Shockingly Irresponsible’

The New York Post’s Friday morning framing of the killing of five Dallas police officers was shockingly irresponsible — even for a paper that once recklessly insinuated two bystanders at the Boston Marathon bombing were suspects in the attack,” Michael Calderone reported Friday for the Huffington Post.

“ ‘Civil War’ blared the headline across the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid. The Post then framed Thursday night’s demonstration in Dallas, a response to two high-profile police shootings of black men killed in recent days, as an ‘anti-police protest.’

“The cover, known as ‘the wood’ in tabloid parlance, quickly drew attention on social media and cable news.

“Around 2:45 a.m., MSNBC anchor Brian Williams held up the Post cover during breaking news coverage of the shooting. ‘Not uncommon to have hyperbolic page 1, but let’s hope this headline is wrong for our country and this is not a civil war,’ he said. . . .”

Fatal Shooting of Suicidal Latino Questioned

For 14 minutes Monday afternoon, officers kept their distance while they tried to coax the armed suicidal man — who had survived a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head — to drop his handgun and surrender, according to police Chief Eddie Garcia,” Robert Salonga reported Tuesday for the San Jose Mercury News.

“But Garcia said the 18-year-old man instead held on to the gun, intermittently pointing it at himself as he paced in and out of the Feller Avenue home nestled in the east foothills.

” ‘At one point, the subject finally emerged and began pointing the weapon in a threatening manner and at one point pointed the weapon toward the officers,’ Garcia said. ‘At that point, two officers fired at least one round from their rifles from across the street, striking the subject.’

“The man who died was identified by family members as Anthony Nunez, of San Jose. The encounter was the city’s fourth officer-involved shooting of the year, and the second to end with a fatality. . . .”

Latino Rebels wrote Friday, “It has been a week of tragedy, from Baton [Rouge] to Falcon Heights to Dallas. With all these stories dominating the national news, you might have missed this story from San Jose and the death of Anthony Nuñez. . . .”

LSU Wants to Bring Alton Sterling Killing to School

“Because faculty and students are not around, we decided not to impose top-down ideas involving a subject as important as this week’s news,” Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, wrote Journal-isms on Friday. The school is in Baton Rouge, site of the police fatal shooting Tuesday of Alton Sterling.

Jerry Ceppos

Jerry Ceppos

“Thus, the following note has gone to every Manship student (about 1,200), faculty, staff, the Manship Board of Visitors and the Manship Alumni Board. . . .

“To Manship students, faculty and staff:

“The violence of the past 72 hours, especially the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, touches on concerns important to students, faculty and staff of the Manship School and the broader LSU community, for that matter. Chief among them are issues of race and criminal justice, along with crisis communication, fair reporting under pressure, the ethics of using sensitive photographs, social movements, community resilience, the importance of video and social media, even reporter trauma and other problems.

“We would like to address this unfolding and now very local issue by inviting your ideas for bringing the issue to the classroom, to research and to public events in the fall. We are prepared to invest resources in research, creative activity and programming that addresses the issue through the lenses of our school — journalism, political communication and strategic communication — and in ways that promote our values and support each other in these difficult times.

“Please send your ideas to any of us or stop by to chat. . . .”

Short Takes

Facebook users: “Like” “Richard Prince’s Journal-isms” on Facebook.

Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.
Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince at

To be notified of new columns, contact and tell us who you are.