In addition to a front page story on the Trayvon Martin killing which buried MAJOR news the NY Times has not one but two columns tackling the case. And each seems to be a call for calm - perhaps the Times has decided that if we are going to have media-fanned race riots in Florida this summer they should cover it more carefully.
Each column contains a surprise for anyone silly enough to rely on the Times for their news. First, Bill Keller:
The shooting of Trayvon Martin has become a cause before it is even a case. It’s natural to admire the resolute grace of his grieving parents and to endorse their demand for answers Florida authorities have been slow to provide. It’s commendable to shine the lamp of shame on Florida’s absurdly permissive gun laws. (This, remember, is the state that tried last year to make it a crime for doctors to talk to patients about the dangers of guns in the home.) But fashioning a narrative from the hate-crimes textbook — bellowing analogies to the racist nightmares of Birmingham and Selma, as the reliably rabble-rousing Reverend Sharpton has done — is just political opportunism. This is the kind of demagoguery that could prejudice a prosecution, or mobilize a mob. Is it not creepy, by the way, that Spike Lee was tweeting the suspected home address of George Zimmerman? As if to say, “Go get him!” (Lee sent apologies and a check to the elderly couple who were scared from their home because, oops, the tweet gave the wrong address. But apparently it’s O.K. to terrorize Zimmerman.)
Depending on how they page through the paper, that will be the first time that Times readers learn of Mr. Lee's deplorable behavior.
But if they turn to the Business Section first, they will find David Carr fretting about the impact of New Media on our discourse:
As if the overheated cable news debate weren’t enough, social media are fueling the story with misinformation, along with incendiary calls to action. There is a Twitter account called “@killzimmerman” that suggested George Zimmerman needed to be “shot dead in the street.” On Twitter, the movie director Spike Lee passed on what he thought was Mr. Zimmerman’s address, but it was wrong and an elderly couple was forced to flee from their home. And what if Mr. Lee had gotten it right? (Mr. Lee has since apologized and reached a settlement with the couple.)
Two mentions of what had been a Times non-event? One hopes that Times readers are not susceptible to the written equivalent of the bends.
THINKING OUT LOUD: If the Times really wants to help social media calm down they might start with their own reporting. The credulous, wide-eyed reporting by Ms. Alvarez of two gunshots, execution style was the tale told by Ben Crump and the Martin family attorneys and no one else. They backpedaled the next day and now tell us that "The sudden crack of gunfire cut the night. A single shot. Then silence." I told you so.
This is from the distant past when the Ms. Alvarez was young and innocent:
On the recordings, one shot, an apparent warning or miss, is heard, followed by a voice begging or pleading, and a cry. A second shot is then heard, and the pleading stops.
“It is so clear that this was a 17-year-old boy pleading for his life, and someone shot him in cold blood,” said Natalie Jackson, one of the Martin family lawyers.
Don't waste time looking for any sort of appended correction - that only happens when they misspell the name of a Russian ballerina, not with unimportant stuff like two gunshots and an execution in a racially tinged killing.
TRUST BUT VERIFY: If the Times really is intent on putting down the pom-poms and acting like investigative reporters for a change, they might mull over just where the big information fails have occurred with this case and try to anticipate a few future potholes.
Just for example, it was Ben Crump et al that promoted the "two gunshots" theory. How did that work?
It seems to have been Ben Crump et al that promoted the hundred pound weight differential between Zimmerman and Martin. How did that work?
And Ben Crump has been the primary source for info about Trayvon Martin's girlfriend and their cell phone exchanges. How will that work?
Ben Crump and his team are advocates for a grieving family, not objective seekers and purveyors of truth. There will be times when their goal is agitation, not information. One might have thought that a newspaper familiar with Al Sharpton would be aware of this, but maybe everything looks bright and new in the Sunshine State.
TO BE FAIR: A real study would add up all the great info that came from Crump and nowhere else. Maybe he has a lot of homeruns to go with the strikeouts. But this gives me pause, from the featured Times story today:
But Mr. Crump and Natalie Jackson, the lawyers for Trayvon’s family, said that the law does not preclude the police from properly investigating a homicide: collecting evidence, thoroughly interviewing the suspect and aggressively questioning witnesses — much of which, they maintained, did not occur in the death of Trayvon Martin.
For example, the lawyers said that as of late last week, no investigator had interviewed Trayvon’s girlfriend.
Sorry for the no-link, but Mr. Crump said the youg lady would only talk to the Feds, since they didn't trust the Sanford PD. To offer her now as an example of their non-effort is a bit of a stretch. If that is their best example, the Times ought to call them on it. But geez, let's give the Times a chance to crawl before they walk.