The presumption of innocence is supposed to protect those accused of a crime, in law and in the press. In corporate media, that rule also seems to apply to white people who report people of color to the police for doing innocuous things. As FAIR found, their identities are far more closely protected than those of people falsely targeted for “suspicious” behavior.It took a while for the racist Starbucks manager, or the racist Yale grad student, or the woman who called the police on black people barbecuing in the park, to be revealed, and the information was crowd sourced, and on Twitter, before the major news organizations deigned to publish this information.
In the past few weeks, major news media have been flooded with coverage of incidents of alleged racial profiling and implicit bias—from golfers reported to police for playing “too slowly,” to picnickers fingered for using the wrong type of grill at a park. This coverage was prompted by viral videos and other social media posts released by the accused or by concerned bystanders, in real time or soon after these events occurred. The characters in these stories had one thing in common: The callers and officers involved were white; the alleged offenders, black or brown.
In a survey of coverage of four recent racial profiling cases, FAIR examined articles or segments in the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today; on NPR, CNN, Fox, and the CBS, NBC and ABC evening news; as well as in major papers in the region where the incidents occurred.
These stories, while similar in content (often using the same quotes or incorporating Associated Press reports), didn’t lack for details. Those accused, police, witnesses, and corporate and institutional leaders were interviewed. Multimedia elements were included, such as smartphone, regular, and police body cam videos, audio from 9/11 calls, police reports and screen captures of social media posts.
But almost across the board, while the accused’s names and personal details have been made public, the accusers remain unnamed. Though equally newsworthy, they were allowed to retain their anonymity.
For other news stories, the identity of the malefactor would be in the first two paragraphs of the story, but there seems to an editorial omerta as regards wypipo behaving badly.