OAKLAND, CA – It’s happened again. A television station covering the death of an African American aired a photo that seemed to imply the person had it coming.
This time KTVU FOX 2 News was reporting on the death of 18-year old Nia Wilson, who was stabbed to death while boarding a Bay Area Rapid Transit train July 22.
During the station’s noon newscast, the reporter’s package included a photo from Wilson’s Facebook page that showed her holding what appears to be a gun.
While some may view the photo as inappropriate, it had nothing to do with her death. The implication from that image is that she deserved to be killed.
KTVU issued a heartfelt apology on Facebook and its highly-rated Ten O’clock News, but this is the latest in a long string of “Oops” moments when a station disparages a person of color and then says, “we’re sorry.”
In 2017, New England Cable News apologized for using a graphic about Boston Police searches that listed 22 percent of White People and 71 percent of “Colored People.”
In 2016 a Pittsburgh television anchor was terminated after posting a racially-charged post about a shooting at a backyard barbecue that killed five people. Police had no suspect information, but the anchor opined that “…they are young black men, likely in their teens or in their early 20s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs.” The station apologized.
What makes what KTVU did so egregious is this not the first time the station has aired racially insensitive content. In 2013, KTVU was called on the carpet after it broadcast fake names of the pilots of the Asiana Airlines 747 that crashed at SFO. The station apologized, and three veteran producers were fired.
You might consider these incidents to be isolated but why do they keep happening?
In 2011, the Maynard Institute broke a series of stories about another case of insensitive reporting, this time in Chicago. CBS television station WBBM had aired a story about a drive-by shooting. Its story included video of a four-year old boy saying he looked forward to getting his own gun. The station left out the part about the boy saying he wanted to be a police officer.
After this incident Maynard did some checking and learned that the newsroom management staff at WBBM included no people of color. These are the people who decide what airs and when. Having an all-white management staff does mean coverage will be biased and having person of color in those positions does not guarantee your coverage will always be fair. But it begs the question if more diversity in decision-making positions would have made a difference.
That’s what makes the incidents at KTVU so disturbing. The station had a diverse newsroom management staff in 2013, not so much now. Its coverage has for the most part always been fair
KTVU FOX 2 really messed up on this one.
Saying you’re sorry – again – just doesn’t cut it.
Bob Butler is an independent journalist, and a past president of the National Association of Black Journalists and Bay Area Black Journalists Association.
KTVU FOX 2 Slammed for Unethical Photo of Nia Wilson
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