I don't have a brother, and if I did, he wouldn't look like Trayvon. I'm not planning on kids any time in the near future, and I don't know if any of them will look like Trayvon. This story pulls at my heartstrings, though.
I have friends that were even more touched by the Martin's story than I was and who feel very strongly that his death was unjust. I watched my Facebook newsfeed fill with pictures of a march in my hometown where hundreds of people donned hoodies and gathered in solidarity for Martin. These marches, which took place throughout the country in recent weeks, reminded me of the "Slutwalks" that garnered much attention this summer, where scantily-clad people marched to drive home the point that the way a woman dresses does not invite sexual assault. Whether you wear a hoodie or a miniskirt, you do not deserve to be victimized.
But I know that we need to look past the hoodie, as one Poynter writer so eloquently put it.
When I was told that my blog post this week was to focus on the media's coverage of "the Trayvon Martin situation," my heart dropped to my stomach. My internal dialogue went something like, "Oh God, I have to write about that?! I don't know what to say about that! I'm a journalist, how do I keep my opinions out of my writing?" Because the truth is, I feel very strongly about the situation. For something that happened hundreds of miles away from me, the media coverage has touched my heart.
Maybe that's the story, then. How can we, as Americans who live in an age of viral videos and a barrage of online media, form our own opinions about something? Other people's opinions are so loud that it can be hard to separate our thoughts from someone else's.
When I took several steps back from my computer screen and dug a little deeper, I found some very solid journalism regarding Martin's death. Thanks to professor Lowe's suggestion to look at the Poynter coverage, my heart rate slowed and I finally started processing facts and analyses, not the loud opinions of others.
What this case has taught me is, once again, I have a responsibility as a journalist. That responsibility is to take those few backwards steps and look at any situation, no matter how controversial, and provide a big picture for readers. Certainly I can have my own opinions, and I always will, but it's not my job to shout them across the Internet. Intelligent analyses and discourse is excellent, but the facts should always come first.